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Apr 26, 2010, was a typical Monday night, until I checked my email at about 8:15 in the evening to find a note from my partner Cisco Networking Academy instructor informing me that my Facebook account had been hacked. Facebook was, I thought, merely a lark–I joined it, frankly, to keep up with my kids. Because I didn’t care about it, I set a weak password–1 that spelled 2 words. When 1 of my students got a message from that hacked account, telling him what to do with himself, which involved a rather impossible sexual position, and my teaching partner received 1 asking her to make love, I realized I really did care a whole lot more than I thought I did. Fortunately, that student realized I’d have never written such a thing, and he was actually the one who informed my teaching partner of the account compromise. Had the situation been different, the outcome might not have ended nearly as well. As it was, I had to reset my password to something much stronger, then rite a note to everyone in my account explaining the situation. It took a lot of time and was a considerable amount of hassle. It also could have been much worse.
I’d like to prevent you from having to undergo a similar experience. Therefore, I’m presenting 2 ways to make a strong (but memorable) password, as they’re no good if you can’t recall them to get back into your favorite sites. I know–I know–You’ve heard it all before–use upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. Perhaps, however, these two methods will help make more sense of that advice .
Method 1: I give credit to my sister for this 1. She simply took the names of family members, mixed upper and lowercase letters, threw in some punctuation signs–and made a 100% on Hostgator’s password strength meter! I’ll illustrate by using my own family–there’s Karl, Me, Rudy Kitty, and a breeding pair of box turtles named Heidi and Little Bit. so: KaJaRkHiLb-623, which is my area code. Obviously, that’s not a password I use, but the principle is easily discernible.
Method 2: Use the first letters of a quote, throw in a number & a period, and you’ve got a password! For example: “a stitch in time saves 9” could be turned into Asits9. It’s too short, but serves well to illustrate the principle.
A last method is to use a program that that stores passwords. My favorite is one called Keepass, available from keepass.info
So–go ahead–use 1 of these methods and set up some strong passwords. So long as you don’t get malware on your machine that passes them on to the cyber criminals, and so long as your network is secure, they should do their job of allowing you into your account(s) while keeping intruders out. We’ll discuss these latter topics in further posts.
Remember: when security’s your business, your business is secure!