‘I can’t remember my password‘ is a common complaint, and also ‘I just use something simple so I don’t forget‘ or ‘I use the same password for each website‘, or the absolutely horrific ‘I use three passwords so I try each one‘.
There is a simpler way….
How about the use of an algorithm? A simple word or phrase that is then adapted for each use?
1/ Choose a simple word or phrase. It doesn’t need to be long, or even very imaginative. As I sit at my desk, I have a few objects. Lets stick to one that I will remember as it has a meaning to me. One that won’t be of any surprise to my students…..
Notice the capital letter? Each lowercase letter has 26 options, with 4 letters that becomes a probability of 1 in 456976. It makes it a lot easier to work out the password as it is a word though, but we will come to that…. By making one a capital, and making the assumption that any one of these letters could be a capital, we double each letters options to 52. Now this gives us a 1 in 7311616 chance of getting this right. Add in punctuation and numbers as possibilities and… well you get the idea.
2/ Next is to make a word not a word. Lets split my original word up with some spaces.
In these spaces we can insert the name of the website or the reason for the password. A popular one might be Facebook. So we can take the first three letters of Facebook, ‘fac’ and fit them in the gaps.
So now a word, is no longer a word, if you know what you are looking at. But, this is still memorable to me. This has produced a difference password for each website or account that I use but just adding the first three letters from the account to those gaps. ‘eba’ for eBay, ‘twi’ for Twitter, ‘wor’ for work..
3/ How about some numbers? I would then use a generic number at the end for passwords that I know are not going to change that often. Something that has a little meaning, but not enough meaning to be easily guessed. Lets for this use the year I finished my MSc, 2014. I will just use the 14 off of this.
If I know that I need to change my password monthly, I could use the month. I could use them in reverse order or make them a little harder by tripling the month number, so the password for April would be…
Where I change the password a little less frequently I could do something similar but with the year and a letter. To do this simply for 2021 password 1, I could write…
It is becoming increasingly common for websites to require a special character, so why not preempt this by adding one into every password. Just by adding a normally accepted punctuation mark, like an exclamation mark, makes this password acceptable for most accounts.
You don’t have to follow this algorithm exactly, there are a number of ways that you can alter the gaps, numbers, and of course the root word, to make this an even more personalised password.
This is only one way of doing it, but I like this way. I think it is an easy way to turn something memorable into a usable and secure password. And of course, I am not going to share the root word or algorithm I use for my own passwords now am I.