#1LinerWeds: Say the secret woid…

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A recent article in the Washington Post talks about the research of two men, Marjan Ghazvininejad and Kevin Knight at the University of Southern California, who think they’ve found the solution to the tricky problem of creating passwords: randomly-generated poems.

The inspiration for Ghazvininejad and Knight’s study was actually a cartoon, created by Randall Munroe of Xkcd, which showed how a password made up of four random words – like “correct horse battery staple” – is far more secure and a lot easier for people to remember than the typical jumble of random letters, numbers and symbols that most people think of as a secure password.

There is a website that will generate sample two-line poems for you. They caution that the poems might not be that secure, as a hacker could conceivably download all the poems and try them, but they show what can be done.

Anyway, it’s an interesting idea, although many websites’ password rules might make them impractical.

Linda Hill runs One-Liner Wednesday, not to be confused with the One-Line Wednesday someone else is running on Twitter. She has the rules and a list of the participants at her blog.

8 thoughts on “#1LinerWeds: Say the secret woid…

  1. Hmm…this could be interesting!

    Back when I had the day job, my boss could never remember his passwords (the company required we update them every 60 days or so). He kept them on a sticky note on his computer. Now THERE’s some security (not). 🙂


    1. I was a RACF administrator back in the dark ages (IBM mainframe security, if you didn’t know), and I had one user that I could count on to call every month to have her password reset. She only logged on once a month to get her email (there was never anything that required her immediate attention; these were the very early days of email, and we were still calling or sending interoffice mail most of the time) and could never remember her password from one month to the next. I suggested she write the new one down, and she said, “but then it won’t be a secret!” My answer? “Yes, but right now, it’s even a secret to you.” I didn’t hear from her again; either she took my advice or found someone else to change it for her.

      I had a system on that job: my password was always two-letter day, two-digit month, day, and year. So if I changed it today it would be fr103015 (passwords were limited to 8 characters and case-insensitive). Now, when I can get away with it, I use lines from prayers (“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle,” for example) or let LastPass generate a string of letters, numbers, and special characters. Kind of a pain when you’re logging on where LastPass isn’t installed, but I figure it’s pretty safe.


    1. I hate to admit that there are a few that sail over my head, because I’m not familiar with some of the science behind the joke, and by the time I find out what they’re talking about I’m like “oh, okay.” But most of them crack me up.

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