I’ve advocated for years about creating very secure passwords that are also easy to remember. With the recent attacks and publications of credentials by groups like Anonymous and LulzSec, we have been reminded just how important computer security is. It starts with you and your passwords.
I work away from home during the week and have considered helping my daughter use her Gmail account so I could send her things and get her reading even more than she already does (she’s awesome, by the way – nearly two grades ahead in reading). She could also use some experience on the keyboard and some general computer skills. After all, she’s six and has no time to waste becoming proficient with computers.
We had just situated ourselves on the couch with my laptop when I realized I’d forgotten the password I had set for her years ago. My wife couldn’t remember it either. We were able to answer some security questions (which I set up in the first place) and reset the password. She wanted the password to be her lambs’ names (Stella and Martha), so we tried StellaMartha for the new password. Google didn’t like it because it was susceptible to a dictionary attack, and absolutely refused to allow it. Some sites will only warn the user about these types of things, and others simply ignore it and will let you use anything. Google goes a bit out of its way to ensure you are protecting your account more than you might at your favorite poker site.
I took this rejection as a challenge to my daughter: she could take those words and still use them, but change them to Leet speak, or 1337. Read the Wikipedia article on Leet for more information.
I never told my daughter what Leet was and had never really explained any of it to her before, but I told her to make substitutions for the letters using symbols that approximate the letter, such as 8 for B, + for t, and so forth. She caught on immediately. Before I was finished creating ‘Stella’ in another form, she was giving me symbols to use. “Daddy, we can use that pipe thing for an ell!” The password we came up with was
5+3||AM@r+#4. I told her she didn’t need to replace all the letters, but she seemed to be having fun. She’s also successfully logged in to Gmail several times by herself using this cryptic collection of symbols*, so the complexity hasn’t really posed a problem.
My point here is that it shouldn’t be very hard or take a long time to create a strong password that you can remember. If I can teach my six-year-old how to create a strong password, I hope I can teach you too. Simply take a word for something you’ll remember and change it to 1337. Try to make sure you don’t have two letters right next to each other, and you should end up with a fairly complex password that will be very difficult for a computer to break. It’s the first step in securing your identity and it should be a high priority for anyone who wants to keep their information safe. The password above comes from a 96-character set, and a 12-character password gives 612,709,757,329,767,363,772,416 possibilities. At a billion passwords per second (supercomputer speed) it would take over 19 million years to go through every combination. I’d say that’s as secure as I need it to be.
I have bestowed upon you great skills – now go use them.
*Disclaimer: this is obviously not the actual password we used. And yes, we really do have lambs in our back yard – welcome to SouthGeek.