Organized Passwords: Secure Password Generator & Manager Tips

Written by Maria Mesick 

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When I picture the people that come up with password requirements, I envision my high school gym teacher. She always waited until 100 degree weather to have us run laps abound the field and had us do sit-ups on the thorny weeds that made up “the grass.”

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Advice like, “Don’t write your password down,” conjures an image of someone throwing their keys over their shoulder. Some advice seems downright impossible to follow like, “don’t use repeat passwords for any of your 30+ accounts,” or ”change your passwords every two months.” The ideal password seems to be designed to be forgotten, and that certainly can’t be functional.

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DIGGING INTO THE SOLUTION: 

  • Weak Passwords: Most security breaches are due to weak passwords. Ever use a password with a family member or pets name, or even a birthdate? When it comes to passwords, we seem to think alike, which makes them that much easier to hack.

 

  • Hacker Technology: It has become easier and easier for hackers to access your accounts and saved passwords. Hackers rely on a program that cycles through all the potential passwords until it finds a hit.

 

  • Writing Down your Passwords is Unsafe: Most people need to write down their many passwords to remember them and post them someplace accessible, like a Post-it note stuck to the computer or, saved in cell phone contacts. I’ve heard way too many robbery stories where the computer, backup AND password book is stolen. Can you imagine trying to remember all the accounts you have so that you can change your password before some stranger logs in? Then there are the stories of estranged friends and family who have stolen passwords and account information. Just this summer, my father left his phone in the living room with me. I guessed his passcode (his birthday) and took a bunch of goofy selfies, even changing his wallpaper to pictures of moi. My father was impressed. I think he believes it was a magic trick.

 

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UNCOVERING THE SOLUTION: 

The biggest questions is, how do you make a password that is strong and memorable? I like to imagine my passwords are keys. I put locks on things I wish to protect, such as my home and my car. When I don’t want to lose my keys, I put them on a keychain. Now apply this process to technology. I don’t want someone to access my personal information so I put a password on my computer and iPhone. I don’t want to loose my passwords, so I use a password management app like 1Password.

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Some people balk at the idea of using a password manager. They fear it will be too complicated, or that its not secure. The thing is, there are so many great options for password managers. It’s easier than ever to find a password manager that fits your particular circumstances.

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If you have an Apple device, then your password manager software is built in. It’s called the Keychain. The Apple keychain is so easy to use that most people are unaware they are already using it. Here’s how it works (and how to access it) :

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  • When you login to an account through the Safari web browser it gives you the option to save your login information.
  • If you agree Safari saves the website, your user name, and your password.
  • This is then encrypted and then stored in the settings of the device.
  • The next time you go to that website, your computer or phone will ask you if you wish to fill in your saved information.

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When I worked in Apple tech support, any time a customer had trouble remembering a password I would show them the apple keychain. I was never able to gain access without a device passcode or my customers fingerprint, but I was almost always successful in finding their forgotten password. The best part about the keychain is that it notices when you change a password and offers to save that change for you. I have my keychain syncing on my iCloud. The benefit is that a password I save on my iPhone can be used on my Mac and my iPad.

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PRO TIP: Using this feature makes it especially important to have a lock set on you phone and computer. Because I use the keychain I never let anyone use my user on my computer. I set up a separate user for guests.

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Password management apps: 

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How to Create a STRONG Password: 

All password keeping apps have the a secure password generator option that automatically creates a strong password for you. I use this feature in some instances, but more frequently I want to create my own memorable but secure password. This is how I do it.

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Step 1. Keep common password requirements in mind. For example;

  • 8 characters or more
  • 1 or more capital letters AND numbers
  • At least 1 symbol

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Step 2. Think of a seemingly random number you have memorized

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We all have a number we remember that has long since lost its relevancy. For me, it was my old wifi password. It used to be that I had to manually enter in my wifi password every time I wanted to use the internet. For some reason, it was a long string of random numbers and letters. After typing this password in daily I unintentionally memorized it. It is forever stuck in my mind. Some examples of numbers you could use are;

  • High school locker combinations
  • Employee number from an old job
  • An childhood friends phone number
  • You get the idea.

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Step 3. Use a phrase

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I don’t use dictionary words in my passwords. Instead I think of a phrase. I’ll use things like a line from a song, or a poem. Anything thats already stored in my memory. Then I create a secret set of rules. I’m not going to tell you those here, but I will share examples. I recommend using them as inspiration to create your own rules.

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  • My number: (my former office number) 261
  • My phrase: Rub-A-Dub-Dub. Thanks for the grub!

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Then I apply the following rules.

  • Take the first letter of every word in my phrase and capitalize them.
  • Put my number at the end followed by an exclamation mark.

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Now, if you wish to use this password for multiple accounts but still make it secure, you can always create another rule. Take the first letter from the company name and place it after the exclamation mark.

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And abracadabra, my Citibank password is RADDTFTG261!C

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My final and most important rule is to have fun. I like to pretend I’m Secret Agent Sydney Bristow from ALIAS. If you want to learn more about passwords, I reccomend this fabulous TED Talk by Lorrie Faith Cranor titled, What’s wrong with your pa$$w)rd?

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