In a few brief millennia, humans have gone from keeping valuables in caves guarded by club-wielding savages to protecting their life savings with a password consisting of numbers one through six.Progress? Probably not. It is nonetheless true, however, based on a study of more than 32 million real-life online passwords used by RockYou.com members. The most common one: “123456.”
It gets worse. The second most common was “12345,” and others in the top 10 included “iloveyou,” “princess” and even “password.” According to Rob Rachwald, director of security strategy at Imperva, the Redwood Shores, Calif., company that did the password study, “If you leave your doors unlocked, somebody can walk right in. The equivalent [of that] in the cybersecurity world is ‘123456.’ ”
Unfortunately, we have only our fallible memories to hang on to our passwords — and many of us have to keep track of dozens of them. But devising effective, memorable passwords is within most people’s power. Numerous methods exist. You can employ visual keyboard patterns. (Hint: Not “QWERTY.”) Swap numbers and symbols for letters or words. (Example: “@” for “a.”) Or base them on song lyrics or movie titles. (“This little piggy went to market” becomes “TLPW2M.”)
Longer is better, too, so Rachwald suggests sticking mnemonic tags onto hard-to-guess short passwords. Thus, “TLPW2Mbank.” Technology also provides solutions with programs such as RoboForm, where one diamond-hard password unlocks all the rest.