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P4S5W0RD5by Valerie Joanne Higgins
Don't let the word "password" lead you into bad habits. The last thing you should use as a password is a word or a name. Fine, if you have a computer in your workroom that is never, ever connected to the Internet, or to your home network, you might just get away with password protecting a file with a "secret" name like "Gandalf" or "Polgara" but that only works if your children or partner don't know you very well. If you are exposing your computer to the Internet, or especially if you are opening any kind of account on the Internet you need to give your passwords a little more thought.
Do not, I repeat, do not ever, use the names of your pets or children as a password. Without doing any kind of snooping I guarantee you I could sit here and tell you the names of the partners, children, dogs and cats of at five of the people reading this article. That's just from my normal social activity in taking part in forums and commenting at blogs. So if you are at all chatty on-line be especially careful not to use familiar names as passwords.
So you think OK, I'll just choose an unusual word. Not good enough. It might work on a human being, but unfortunately it doesn't take all that long to let a computer program chunter its way through the dictionary.
So if you can't use a real word. How do you remember and apparently random jumble of letters?
You use a mnemonic. A mnemonic is the first letter of each word of a sentence.
Choose a line from a poem or song, or a quote from a film and use the initial letters. If you chose the song "Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea." that would give you a password that reads "ptmdlbts", now that would be a password much harder to guess than say "wyvern" or "Gryffindor".
If you enjoyed the film Eragon you could say "So much for our rat problem" and have a password that read "smrorp".
Or try Alice in Wonderland, "Twas brillig and the slithy toves, did gyre and gimbal in the wabe", would give you "tbatstdgagitw".
Make your passwords as long as you can get away with, longer sequences are harder to break.
There are ways to get sneakier. Adding in numbers as well gives 36 possible variable for each character instead of just 26. You can swap numbers for words that sound like them or look like them. So maybe 3 for the word free, or swap s for 5?
For example "I will sing to you of Frodo of the nine fingers and the Ring of Doom" could be "iws2yofot9fatrod" or "1ws2y0f0t9f4tr0d"
If you are dealing with a bank on-line, or any company that uses your credit details, your password is the only input you have towards increasing your security. Take it seriously; it is important. Even with a forum, it could get seriously messy if someone else passed themselves off as you.
So have fun devising your own passwords, and just to be on the safe side, don't use any of my examples. You don't know who else might have been reading.
Valerie Joanne Higgins a fantasy artist and poet who lives in Shropshire, England.
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