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A recipe for digital security: How to make your login password secure. Posted in Digital Strategy, Concocted by Ettienne Mostert, 1 comment
Published on 9 April 2010

Passwords have become ubiquitous in our digital way of life. Considered by some to be an outdated method of guarding access to our information, money or identity it is still the most widespread.

password securityGiven the rapid progression of technology and the extensive infiltration of digital technologies into our lifestyles you would expect that more advanced systems would be in place to guard our digital security, possibly some sort of super DNA retina fingerprint scanner would be the only bona fide way to secure our information.

But as Justin Stanford pointed out at our March Heavy Chef Session, security always has to be weighed up against the cost and convenience of the system in place. So, for now the password is the most cost effective and simplest form of protection we have and we have to make the most of it. Here is a recipe to serve up a secure kick-ass password to ensure your security:

Preparation/Context: Let’s start by what not to do when creating a password. Hackers know the most common password security traps that users fall into and these are the first port of call when trying to gain access to your system.

  1. Don’t use obvious personal information – Anyone who knows even the most basic information about you i.e. a birth date or pet’s name will be able to hack your accounts.
  2. Don’t use real and single words – Hackers have access to tools that help them guess your password. Even a tool that can try every word in the dictionary is not unheard off.

Ingredients: So, how do we create the best types of passwords?

  1. Make use of upper and lower case letters as well as other characters –simply put the password ‘ApPLes’ is more secure than ‘apples’ and ‘aPp!35’ even more secure.
  2. Create an acronym from a phrase – combine letters from words in a phrase to create a cluster of letters that are difficult to decipher but easy to remember. For example, ‘my chair is very comfortable’ could create ‘yHaisRco’
  3. 12345… not – Keyboard patterns are also a way to create good passwords but once again don’t fall into the trap of creating common combinations by using adjacent keys like ‘12345’ or ‘qwerty’. Something like ?)(lk will be difficult to crack, easy to remember and quick to type in.
  4. Use more than one word – Using more than one word adds a layer of complexity to the password e.g. monkeyfridge or surftower. Be careful to not use words that you often talk about or words that you can easily be associated with.
  5. Split words with other characters – Once you have chosen an abstract but easy to remember word like ‘printersun’ split the word up with symbols and numbers e.g. ‘Pr13ntER93sun’. This will provide additional security.

Another useful tip Justin Stanford mentioned was to create multiple passwords for different types of sites. Create 2 or 3 different passwords and use them based on how secure the site is. So the first password can be used for accessing your bank account and similar accounts, another can be used for your email account and the third password can be used for sites like forums or other accounts that the security of the site is not guaranteed. Ideally you would want a different password for each site but practically this can be quite challenging.

In summary, the best passwords are those that have an added layer of complexity, are easy to remember but that no one would easily guess, particularly by people who know you.

On another note, if you’d like to know how to store your passwords securely click here

Read more posts by Ettienne Mostert

Ettienne Mostert

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  3. Heavy Chef Session March 2010: Focusing on Security
  4. A Winning Recipe for A Secure Facebook Profile
  5. Heavy Chef March in Cape Town: Focusing on Security

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  1. blindcripple says

    A really interesting alternative is a diceware password. It uses real words that are strung together to be nonsensical when being looked at. You can then throw in a number and a caps here and there, and you’re pretty darn secure.