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Passwords, And how to create them


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Passwords, And how to create them


All of us are well aware of the bane of today's society. Everywhere you go, you must prove who you are. You get a card from your bank that you can use to access your money. You need a passport to go from one country to the other. A driver's license says you are authorized to drive a car. You may even have cards and badges to get into work each day.

And above that, to access your computer, or the network, you also have to identify yourself by typing in a username and a password.


To minimize the strain of not forgetting a password, many people use something simple to remember. Maybe your kid's name? Or your pet's? Your date of birth?… Or the one from your significant other? It might even be something foolish like secret or password! And apart from that, you may even use this password everywhere you have to login… After all, that minimizes the tension of remembering tens, if not hundreds, of passwords.


If you are one of those people, think of what it takes to crack your password! I assume that you only used single cased alphabetic characters. This is because most password checkers are case sensitive and, remembering the proper case of the characters is an extra burden. I also assume that your password is 8 characters in length. This means that a password consists of 8 characters out of 26 possible choices, or in mathematical form 26^8. This means that there are 208,827,064,576 possible combinations. This looks like much, but remember the speed of a computer. At a million attempts per second it would take less that 60 hours to try all the combinations. Ergo, your password will be cracked within 60 hours!


If you use case sensitivity and the numeric characters (0 to 9) this would mean 62 possible characters and increase the possible combinations to 218,340,105,584,896. At the same million attempts per second this would take 6.9 years to crack it. That is a lot better then 60 hours!


Normally people do not make random passwords like "Vj7K;Z<w1576". They take something they can remember. And that usually means it is a normal word…. From a dictionary. So password crackers like Rainbow Crack use lists from dictionaries to enumerate as possible passwords. This program uses other methods to crack passwords too, such as using the number 1 more frequently than others or appending numbers to dictionary words. All of these are flaws in the way humans create passwords.


All these search algorithms guarantee that given enough time, all passwords can be cracked. All you can do is use strong passwords. What comprises a strong password? A strong password is made up of at least three of these five categories:


· English uppercase letters (A, B, C,…Z)

· English lowercase letters (a, b, c,…z)

· Westernized Arabic numerals (0, 1, 2,…9)

· Nonalphanumeric characters (`~!@#$%^&*_-+=|\{}[]:;"‘<>,.?/)

· Unicode characters such as the Euro symbol (€)


A strong password is also long. Remember the longer a password, the harder it will be to crack. Start thinking about a pass phrase, instead of a password. In that case you can use sentences that are easier to remember, especially if these sentences contain characters from the three aforementioned groups. A sentence like: "At the last yard sale I bought a book by Stephen King for $3.99" will be infinitely harder to crack than a simple password of 12 characters.


And, if you have trouble remembering the passwords you use, you can use a program like Password Corral, which you can download from http://www.cygnusproductions.com/freeware/pc.asp to aid in storing and remembering them for you. The program uses encryption to securely encrypt the stored passwords so that a hacker will have a difficult time decrypting all your passwords. The program also has a password generator which you can configure to use all of these five groups. Of course you need a password to open the file, but by using the guidelines from above that will be much easier to do.








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