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Password management

by Kit
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graphic combing padlock, finger print and shield

Passwords, ubiquitous but essential for keeping information private. Even if you think it is not necessary to keep your information, you never know who might be interested and likely to use it for something you didn’t think of.

Then there’s the issue of picking a new secure password. Something that can’t easily be guessed by humans or worked out by machine either through using a list of known passwords in what’s known as a brute force and dictionary attacks (so don’t even think of using ‘1234’, ‘1password’ or 1Password, etc). In 2012, Nick Berry founder of Data Genetics analysed passwords from previously released and exposed tables and security breaches. He found that of those passwords which were only 4 digits long 11% of the 3.4 million passwords was the sequence 1234 and 6% used 1111. Other popular sequences were 0000, 1212, 7777 etc. https://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/the-exchange/cracking-pin-code-easy-1-2-3-4-130143629.html

Nowadays to make things harder we’re advised to use a longer sequence, including the use of capital letters, symbols, etc. All of which make it harder for computers to work out what the correct password sequence is. It’s possible your browser even offers to generate a new random sequence for you and remember it… but what happens if you need to be able to remember that password, eg you need to be able to access that account from another machine. Some browsers have the ability to synchronise accounts so when you log into another machine, your data saved securely to the cloud is accessible.

At the moment one of the preferred recommended ways of creating passwords is the use of password phrases. The stringing together of sequences of words which are memorable to you like ‘Mary_had_a_Little_lamb’. That to a computer is difficult to crack it’s 22 characters long and includes symbols and capital letters.

It’s also advisable not to use the same password for different accounts, because there is always the possibility that the password you use on one account gets exposed and sold on to others to add to their collection of possible passwords, particularly if it’s associated with an email account – yours! That email address and/or password either separately or combination is then used to attempt access to other websites in the hope they can gain access.

But with so many passwords AND the password for each site needing to be different from each other you need some way of managing all the passwords and ideally in a secure more portable format. That’s where password managers come in. These are software programs for your phone and computer designed to securely hold passwords for you. Think of something like a locked filing cabinet of passwords. And there are quite a few password managers available. Thankfully there are sites like PasswordManager.com who can help you choose.

[NB we do not get any commission from suggesting the website passwordmanager.com, but they did ask to be considered. Their own site gets commissions from referring visitors to some products and services using affiliate partnerships, but it’s a great resource for an overview of the password management software that’s available.]

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