Password Security

How to Manage and Remember Computer Passwords

The days when most of us had one password to logon and one more to access the internet are gone. Many sites now demand registration and a password and few of us can remember them. Depending on the level of security you need, there are various strategies for creating memorable passwords and managing them effectively.

Passwords for basic security

The easiest way to simplify password proliferation is to use the same one for everything. This is not recommended unless someone else gaining physical or web access to your details is not an issue. There are hackers and scamsters out there and using the same password is like giving them your front door key. Create different passwords for every account and if you can’t remember them then the easiest option is simply to store a list on your computer.

If your computer remembers them for you, you might still need to access them if you’re away from home. One option if you have a web-based email service like Yahoo, Hotmail or Googlemail, is to send them to yourself in a message so you can retrieve them wherever you are. (Don’t put ‘passwords’ in the subject field!)

Higher level security

For top level security, don’t let your browser remember your passwords for you and keep your passwords in your head. If you don’t want to spend time doing the ‘reset password’ dance and waiting for an email to come in to reactivate your account, the key is creating memorable passwords that are sufficiently strong.

Creating good passwords – and remembering them

Many sites will ask for a password that is at least eight characters and includes at least one number. Some are also case-sensitive. The secret for a memorable password is to work to a template made of several easy-to-recall components. For example, in number + letters + letters, number could be the first four digits of your phone number + an acronym for the site the password is used to access + either date, month or year of birth: 5552spmk70 for your supermarket shopping.

It doesn’t look memorable, but the key is that you can work it out. By varying the last number you will still have a substantially different passwords that only give you three options if you get it wrong, so most sites won’t shut you out. For additional security add one capital – perhaps the last letter of your site acronym: so 5552spmK70.

The template as mnemonic can be varied almost infinitely according to your preferences. Make it more complicated if you like (generally speaking, the more letters and letter-number-case combinations, the harder it is to crack). If you have two passwords for one site, make one the other one backwards.

Be creative

With imagination and a little effort you’ll be able to manage and remember computer passwords galore, or at least have a good shot at guessing if your memory fails you.