How many unique passwords do you have? 10? 20? Being an extreme security freak myself, I should have created more than 30 all these years – and it’s not funny when my memory fails to remember them. From the largest social media platforms like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Tumblr, to the countless number of online shops, loyalty programs and even personal blogs, when we visit for the first time and attempt to use their services, we are almost always required to open a new account and create a strong password. And what does it mean by a “strong” password really?
According to our beloved search giant Google, a strong password should be a string that includes both upper- and lower-case letters, as well as a good mix of non-repeating numbers and symbols. For example, when opening a new email account, we should think of a scene like “my friends Tom and Jasmine send me a funny email once a day”, then recreate the sentence by mixing letters, numbers and symbols in a totally abstract form. And that’s why “my friends Tom and Jasmine send me a funny email once a day” would become “MfT&Jsmafe1ad”. On the bright side, this rather meaningless string would create a brilliantly tough shield to your account, as it would take a desktop PC approximately 26 million years to decipher according to howsecureismypassword.net.
But I mean, seriously. Although we are simply using a tiny portion of our memory capacity, a recent study has found that the more we try to memorize, the worse the quality tend to be. And we may well end up remembering a little bit of everything, which sounds really terrifying and devastating when it comes to passwords – just imagine I have 30 different strings like “MfT&Jsmafe1ad” to memorize; they would probably become a bowl of potato salad in my head.
So what are the solutions when we are overloaded with strange codes? First, there are some password safes such as KeePass and LastPass which act as one-stop encrypted databases for us to store the information. Or we can simply write the complicated strings down and put the paper into a secret vault hidden somewhere. Of course, the simplest and most straightforward way one might think of is to simplify the strings a little bit, but we must be very careful when doing so, because “attacks can and do happen”. No matter what, avoid using names, birthdays and cell phone numbers at all expense.