Monday, April 18, 2011

More on Passwords

The other day, I saw this little piece of fluff positing that passwords such as “this is fun” are more secure than passwords such as, say, “j4fS<2” because they're longer and easier to remember. In fact, the author says that “this is fun” is 10 times more secure than “j4fS<2”. There's a lot wrong with this article and I was going to blog about it but Troy Hunt beat me to it with this excellent post.

There's a lot of confusion and, let's face it, just plain cluelessness about choosing safe passwords so it's good to have articles like this one shed some light on the matter. As it turns out, Hunt has written a series of posts on passwords all of which you can see here. I urge you to read these; the examples he gives of banks, airlines, and others using horribly insecure password policies will take your breath away. Think I'm exaggerating? How about ING using a 4 digit pin as a password for online banking? There are plenty of others too.

Hunt was rightly puzzled by all this so he decided to query some of the worst offenders as to the reasons for their policies. He describes his results in The 3 reasons you're forced into creating weak passwords. I won't ruin the surprise answers that came back—you should read them yourself. Of course, the answers are sadly all too predictable for there to be much surprise but you should still read them.

It's not all fun and games, though. There's a lot of useful information in these posts. For example, I didn't realize that passwords over 14 characters are essentially safe from rainbow table attacks. In view of that, I'm considering having my password generator output 15 characters instead of 10.

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