Whitwick & District U3A - Computing tip September 2014
Over the past few months there have been a number of fairly high profile cases where users have been urged to change their passwords. Choosing passwords has always been a bit of a pain, and of course this is made worse by the frequently made comment that you should use a different password for each site.
The thinking behind this is that once someone has gained your credentials for one site, they will try to use the same ones for a whole raft of popular sites e.g. Amazon, Ebay, Facebook and so on. This means that they can either learn more about you or spend your money.
What makes a good password? There are two important elements - one is length and the other is complexity, by which we mean is it just letters or is a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Once you are using both upper and lower case letters, then length is slightly more useful than complexity. However, there is a but; this is that you should avoid dictionary words, people's and pet's names. Similarly if using numbers in a password or as a PIN you should avoid simple sequences or well-known dates e.g. 1234 or 1066.
Nowadays 8 characters is the very minimum you should consider, 10 is much better, so in light of the constraints above, how do you go about making one. A useful technique is to base the password on a phrase. So for example an Elvis fan might use "Well its one for the money, two for the show" to produce "Wi14thm24ts" using the initial letters of some words and numbers for words that are, or sound like, a number. Whatever method you use, do avoid the obvious ones such as Password, Pa55w0rd, 12345678 and the like.
Having generated a password, the question arises how to keep it. Even if you have a good memory and you are using memorable phrases, it is unlikely that you will remember more than few. Now we are all told not to write them down, and certainly one shouldn't keep one's PIN next to your credit card, but it might actually be safer to have a written record of lots of different passwords, rather than having a password you can remember but which is used on dozens of sites. The alternative is to use a Password Manager - this stores your passwords securely and you need only to remember the one password that opens it. There are a number of these products, some free, and which you choose may depend on whether you need to store your passwords on more than one device e.g. your PC and your tablet.
While different surveys give slightly different results, the following are amongst the most common passwords in use in 2013. Don't use them!
Some of the more popular password managers are given below. Some are free, some paid for; many work across a variety of devices.
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