Computers > Passwords
Choosing a Pretty Good Password

Myth: if it is encrypted, it is secure
Truth: if it is not encrypted, it is not secure

A good password is one that's hard to guess, yet easy to remember. So here are the top 10 ways to choose a password, in roughly increasing difficulty. If you don't use any of the first 5, you're well on your way. The stats are very rough estimates (for comparison purposes, an 8-character password is used for most calculations):

  1. Default (same as none):
    • Many programs and services assign a default password . Change this to a new password immediately.
    • examples: password, superuser

  2. 10 Common passwords:
    • god, love, lust, money, private, qwerty, secret, sex, snoopy, & (surprise!) password

  3. Personal info:
    • your name, initials, location (zip code), birthday, pets, license plate
      • family/friend's names (including maiden), locations, birthdays, pets
      • word/number combinations of any of the above
    • Ego-related; examples: guru, master, wizard
    • Favorite: Music (group names, albums), Fiction/Nonfiction/Comic books/characters, Movie/TV/Cartoon characters & titles
    • Dumb Hollywood movie-people think all passwords are of this variety

  4. Categories:
    • Double-words; examples: kittykitty, johnjohn
    • Funny/nonsense/jargon words; examples: wassup, bzzzzz, foobar
    • Insults; examples: biteme, eatdirt
    • Keyboard sequences; examples: asdfg, qweasd, poiqwe
    • Obscene words; examples: (use your imagination)
    • Passwords based on host name (for people with lots of passwords)
      • for example, if the system is named 'cat' an obvious password is catpass
    • Reversals; examples: terces, wordpass, nhojnhoj

  5. Dictionary & Foreign Language words:
    • If you can find your word here, it's not a very good password.
    • Common Passwords - Various Languages
      • Dan Klein - Browsable and categorized lists of English words
      • DEC Collection - compressed lists of common English words
    • stats: There's 200,000+ words in the English language (most people use around 10,000-40,000). As a guesstimate, there's some 32,000 8-letter words/phrases.

  6. Mixed-Case Dictionary Words (alternating UPPER-lower case letters)
    • examples: paSSworD, PLaceBO
    • stats: If a word has 2 letters, there's 4 (22) ways to capitalize it (at, At, aT, AT). If a word has 8 letters, there's 256 ways. Similar combinations (2letters) apply to each word in the dictionary. Guesstimate: There's around 32,000 8-letter words, which gives 8 million (32,000 x 256) mixed-case 8-letter passwords

  7. Mixed-case Word with Number(s)
    • examples: 9fiNgeRS, loVELy68
    • stats: Tacking on a number from 0-9 before or after a word gives 20 more variations to the password. Using 00-99 before or after the word, gives 200 variations. Guesstimate: there's some 19,000 6-letter words, and 243 million variations (19,000 x 64 x 200) of 6-letter-word 2-number passwords.

  8. Mixed-case Word(s)/Letter(s)
    • Combining words and/or extra letters
    • examples: GUessTHis, BiKeFisH
    • stats: We're talking pretty big numbers here. Around 53 trillion (528) 8-letter mixed-case passwords (i.e. aaaaaaaa, aaaaaaaA, aaaaaaAa, ..., ZZZZZZZZ)

  9. Mixed-case Words/Numbers/Letters

  10. Random characters
    • examples: qs3UIs82, k38#0J$dA
    • note: some programs and services only allow letters and numbers, some include dashes ('-'); the best allow any character
    • stats: Assuming 94 'type-able' characters, there's 6 gazillion (948 = 6.1 quadrillion [US]) different 8-character passwords. There's not as many 7-character passwords, but there's some 9-character ones still available, if you hurry.
In general:
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