How to Create a Great Password – II

Previously, we’ve discussed that the best password is completely random, and very long.

But it would be hard to remember, so it isn’t best for your master password, or any other passwords that you need to use frequently, for example, your laptop computer account.

For those passwords – if you want to shave away the lookup time – a different method is required to make a memorable and yet strong password.

Keep in mind that limitation such as maximum length and special characters still applies to your system, so you’ll need to adapt the below approach to fit within the limits.

The idea is basically as follows

  1. make a password from an unique phrase memorable to you
  2. “shift” the characters to increase password strength (i.e. randomness)

The nice thing is that while words might exist in dictionary, the combination of words once again increase the key spaces of the password, and phrase can make it memorable.

Obviously – there can be a phrase dictionary too, so it’s best if you do not choose common phrases such as “to be or not to be”; if you do, your account might not “be” for too long.

to_be_or_not_to_be

An example of a good phrase is something that only you would know. For example, you might have been asked to write about Shakespeare. So you look up your past homework assignment and found the following gem:

Ophelia thinks Hamlet is running the asylum

So you use that as the base of your password. Note how long it is!  Phrases are the easiest way to create large passwords.

Of course, if you use the above directly, it doesn’t increase the set of possible characters (it’s just 26 letters) – so we can do some “shifting” of the characters to increase the size.

For example, we can “shift” all the letter ‘t’ to letter ‘%’. So the above now becomes

Ophelia %hinks Hamle% is running %he asylum

We can also “shift” the letter “n” to letter ‘^’, which gives us the following

Ophelia %hi^ks Hamle% is ru^^i^g %he asylum

We can change the letter ‘l’ to the number ‘1’, which gives us the following

Ophe1ia %hi^ks Ham1e% is ru^^i^g %he asy1um

So on. You can apply as many shift rules as you deem necessary. With this all you need to do is to remember the phrase along with the shift rules you have applied. And after you have typed it a few times, the transformation rules will become part of your muscle memory, by which all you do is remember the phrase.

If you run into character limitations imposed by the system (say no ‘%’ character), just make sure you do not have a particular shift rule (i.e. no shift from ‘i’ to ‘%’).

If you run into size limitations imposed by the system, the easiest approach is to compress the phrase; say we’ll take the first two characters of each word to form the base.

So from the original phrase

Ophelia thinks Hamlet is running the asylum

Taking the first two characters of each word now becomes

OpthHaisruthas

And you can still apply shift rules, say change ‘t’ to ‘%’

Op%hHaisru%has

And So on.

Whether you compress the phrase or not, starting from a phrase and apply shift rules is the easiest way to create a strong password that’s memorable. You can have a consistent set of shift rules for multiple passwords; you just need to have different phrases for each!

Now go choose memorable phrases and transformation rules that are unique to you.

 

 

 

 

 

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