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Remember that password?

Article complexity: This article is intended for normal internet user.

Password strength

Without going deep into mathematics basically password strengt is a combination of password length, character set (special characters, capital and lower-case letters, numbers etc.) and randomness. Strong passwords tend to be hard to remember and you should have different password to every service. In this post I will preset three methods that could help you remember strong passwords.

Warning: If you are not absolutely sure what you are doing be extra careful with the sites that provide “test your password strength” – services. Services like that might be created for phishing your password.

Three methods

Write them down! – (F-Secure/Annika method)

This method is fully explained in F-Secure Safe and Savvy blog. Basic idea is to have part of your service dependent password at paper and remembering a secret “PIN” that is added to this password. Thoughts behind this idea are good but there are couple of things to notice:

  • I recommend using much longer password and PIN than presented in that blog post
  • In case of password breach at one of the services you should change password to all services since PIN is exposed. This can be really frustrating.

Overall this method provides means for good passwords.

Password manager

Password managers like LastPass and 1Password can store strong passwords and you only have to remember one password to use all your passwords. Password managers are really good solution, but there are also some issues:

  • You are fully dependent on the password manager – cloud solutions bring some help but adds concerns related to all cloud services.
  • There is a single point of failure possibility – all your data is behind one password. Leakage of that password exposes all your passwords.

Passphrase

Passphrases are like passwords that consists of words instead of letters. Here is an example: ThoseThreePonysArePinkAndReallySmall! That is an actual phrase that can be remembered. However it does not offer good randomness, so better passphrase would be: ShirtSunWavesLivingSafeTreeAdsDoorPopularity? This is better since it has more randomness (not completely random words though) but not as easy to remember. If you want to add some complexity you could use several languages and special characters. Couple notes:

  • Not all the services accept really long passwords (unfortunately)
  • You should use totally different words for each services and this could lead to original problem (hard to remember)

Summary

As seen there is no silver bullet for the problem. I hope that this blog post brought some help for you when dealing with your passwords. I will continue the hunt for good solution and keep you updated!