Strong Passwords

by Christopher Paul on May 7, 2010

messed up

Image: messed up, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (2.0) image from darwinbell’s photostream

Besides getting back to the gym, eating better (like I used to), and writing more (still working my way into that resolution), one thing I wanted to do this year was change all my passwords.

I’m no dummy to security. I know a good password is sometimes the only thing that keeps your data and systems safe. Passwords should be long and contain at least one number and special character. But you should also have a unique password for each site and system so if your password is ever compromised, a thief couldn’t open all your doors at once. Twitter knows what I’m talking about.

But to be fair and truthful, I did not always follow my own password security rules. I’ve had passwords that were only four or five characters – and common words, too, like roof or dials. I’ve also had passwords with numbers – but not with a capital letter like trs80 (my first computer ever). Eventually, the passwords got longer and included a capital letter and several numbers – but no symbols. Still, they probably maxed out at 6 or 8 total characters long. Many times (but not always), I’d use the same password over and over again out of convenience and ease of memorization.

But after a recent article on Lifehacker which polled its readers on what password manager to use, I thought I’d breakdown and finally work to beefing up my security. Now, I use complex passwords of at least 15 randomly generated numbers, letters, and special characters. To manage the creation and storage of the passwords, I use 1Password by Agile Software. Their integration with Safari/WebKit and their iPhone app makes the process easy.

I can’t really review the app well enough but if you’re a Mac user, I highly recommend it. There are open source and windows alternatives. Check out the Lifehacker article on the five best password managers if you’re interested in boosting the strength of your passwords while eliminating the need to remember multiple complex passwords.

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