Are you sitting securely? Then we’ll begin

Shove in a hashtag. Plonk in a couple of capitals. Crowbar in a number or three. And you’ve got a secure password, right? Something like P4rR0t! (with a zero, of course).

Ugh. Coming up with one is enough to give you a migraine. Never mind remembering it.

Thing is, all that effort is a waste of time.

What’s wrong with these passwords?

They’re not actually very secure. Hackers might try and guess your password. But more often they’ll just get their computer to hash out every combination. And computers don’t care about the difference between the letter x or a question mark. So it’s length that really slows a computer down, not complexity.

And they’re a nightmare to remember. So you have to think of something like your favourite animal or number. (How many people probably have the password Dragon13?) Or you forget it over and over and have to faff and reset it.

The secret is stories

XKCD said it best. Use a few random words and you’ll make your password stronger, because it’ll be longer. And it’ll also be easier to remember.

The reason comes back to how we’re hardwired for stories. You don’t even need to try to give a password meaning and you’ll end up doing it anyway.

It’s like how you can’t watch a video of random shapes moving without assuming there’s some meaning behind it. Or how people remember the order of a deck of cards by imagining them around their house. If you pick a few random words, you’ll probably be able to think of a narrative to link them together. And it’s easy for us to remember stories.

So next time you need a new password: grab a dictionary, jab a pencil into it a few times, and think of a story.

0 min read, posted in Culture, by Admin, on 2 Jul 2014