Password managers are great but sometimes, you need to create a strong password that you can remember yourself. Here’s how
My most important password is the one that opens my password manager account which keeps my other (hundreds of) unique passwords. Password managers can be set up so they log you in on trusted devices automatically but at Graphic Violence, we don’t like this – it is a weak point in otherwise excellent security.
So we log in to our password managers manually with each device we start up and to do this, we need to remember one, big, rock-hard password which we don’t have written down or saved anywhere outside of our own heads. How do we create and remember tough passwords? It’s not as difficult as you might think.
Create a picture story
Mixing numbers, letters and symbols, make it long and don’t make it look logical. Length is the crucial factor, and nonsensical construction the next. We use passwords constructed from sequences we simply remember or can look up easily. For example, postcodes and phone numbers provide sequences of numbers and letters which are utterly random for a hacker and can be themselves broken into pieces to assemble a password. The first half of your postcode, then the last six digits of your mobile number, and then the back half of your postcode.
For example, your postcode is AB12 3CD and your mobile number is 07770 656 434. This gives you AB126564343CD. A quick check in How Secure Is My Password? indicates a computer would take 100 years to hack this. Not bad but we can do much better than this. We use a technique used by illusionists, like Darren Brown, of creating visual stories. Consider this tale:
‘I was going to PHONE MUM but then I decided to DRIVE round from MY PLACE To HER’S and SURPRISE her’
This is the password clue we can write down or put in as the prompt on password recovery. We don’t need or use the capitals you see here, we’ve added these to show you how this creates our password. So my mum’s mobile number ends 703996. Her name is Margret but we all call her Maggie (maGGie). My favourite toy car as a kid was a Renault 5 GTS turbo. My own postcode is FS123WQ and I’m going to (>) mum’s at her postcode AB320DF and it will be a surprise (!) visit. Put these elements together and we get the password:
This password will, apparently, take 126 duovigintillion years to crack. We’ve no idea how long that is but it is safe to assume that it’s longer than the universe will actually exist. With 45 elements arranged in something that makes no sense (to anyone else), it is a killer password.
I use and remember by heart, a 25-element password which would take a rather more modest 115 octillion years to crack. Create a little story using alphanumerics you either remember or can look up easily. Then use the password every day.
Creating your ultimate password for your password manager is fine but if you never have to remember it to login, it does you no good. Don’t have your browser remember passwords, or set your manager to auto login, do it manually every morning and you’ll soon find a long and complicated password is as quick as you can type. And very secure.
Are you using a password manager? If not, read why you should be.
- How secure is my password? – howsecureismypassword
- Four methods to create a secure password you’ll actually remember – lifehacker.com
- Derren Brown memory techniques revealed – mentalismzone.com
- 10 memory tricks for creating safe and easy-to-remember passwords – pandasecurity.com