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Keep your passwords different

12th January 2012

One of our suppliers, who is an industry giant, recently told us that their database of passwords and credit cards had been hacked, and we needed to take measures as a result.

Quite possibly the passwords are stored in an unreadable format, but unreadable is not the same as unbreakable - and some so-called unreadable formats are all too clear for hackers if just some of the passwords on the system are guess-able.

We are glad, then, that the password we used with this supplier is not the same as any of the ones used with other suppliers.  Because there is a chance that, knowing your password for one system, hackers will try the same password for your email, your banking, and so on.

How do you maintain a vast set of different passwords? 

A password file with a strong, unbreakable password is a possible solution. For example, this could be an Excel spreadsheet or Openoffice file which is encrypted with a long password.

However, you will need to remember some on a daily basis, so having passwords like hkj$$!h87633jheuxn is not really a great option.

One solution recommended by a few IT bloggers is to have a long phrase which you can remember - for example MyBrotherJohnHas5Goats!.  This has the advantage of having more than 52^23 possible combinations (more than, because it's not just alphabetical) which is a ten with 39 zeroes after it.  With the fastest technology possible, it would take longer than many lifetimes to go through this combination of passwords, by which time you probably won't need your password any more...

If you throw in the occasional bit of punctuation you lessen the chance of someone searching for a sentence using just word matches - for example My$BrotherJohn!Has26Goats.

Think about your weakest passwords today - and change them!

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