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Password Security

I came across these interesting charts that estimates how long it might take to crack your passwords: Password Recovery Speeds. It could be helpful in convincing your customers that "2234" really isn't a password.

You can directly demonstrate their foolishness with tools like John the Ripper.

Once you have convinced them that they need better passwords, the next hurdle is convincing them to change passwords. If you've used good passwords, you don't need to change extremely frequently, but a password that's been in use for years is probably known by more than a few people, and (as those charts show) could be hacked by someone with either a lot of patience or a lot of cpu horsepower at their disposal.

The final problem is people who use the same password everywhere: every website has the same login and password, from their bank accounts to the last download that required registration. I confess that I use the same passwords for unimportant sites: sites that don't involve money, logins to information sites, newsgroups etc. But I certainly don't repeat logins or passwords for any site that does involve money or other important information (like Network Solutions, for one).

However, people are lazy and it can be difficult to remember dozens of passwords. One technique is to use the same password, but vary upper and lower case and vary numbers with their uppercase punctuation equivalents. For example, if I had the password "G6hotRE87", variations on that might be:

  • g^HOTre*&
  • g6hotRE*7

and so on. You can also swap segments ("hotG6RE87") and do reversals ("78ERtoh6G"). It's better to use completely unrelated passwords, but these are certainly better than using identical credentials everywhere.

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© Anthony Lawrence

Thu Apr 20 04:25:51 2006: 1942   BigDUmbDInosaur

One of the distributors with which I do business requires a password change at three month intervals, which is a bit annoying. They also apparently log previously used passwords and will not allow you to reuse one. The only recourse, of course, is to have the browser remember the current password, as I find it nearly impossible to remember randomly generated passwords (I tend to be guilty of repeating passwords).

Something I run into quite frequently are Windows users without a password. The most-often cited reason for this is that it is "inconvenient." Given that a few of these systems are exposed to the Internet for various reasons, I try to highlight how inconvenient it would be if a cracker gained access through one of those password-less accounts and started messing with things. I usually get nods of understanding, but nothing changes. Oh well, it's a good source of work when I get called in to pick up all the pieces and get things going again. <Grin>

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