A few days ago, the World Day of Password was celebrated, but do not bother buying a cake or sending cards. The computer manufacturer Intel has created the remembrance as an annual reminder that in general our passwords habits have nothing to celebrate. On the contrary, expect and other professional computer scientists like me too that we use this day to say a final goodbye to qwerty or 123456 which remain the most popular passwords.

passwords how to improve them

The problem of short and predictable passwords

The password decryption tools used by hackers take advantage of this lack of creativity. When pirates find or buy stolen credentials they will most likely discover that passwords are not stored with the password text itself but rather as unique fingerprints called summaries of actual passwords. A hash function mathematically transforms each password into a coded fixed-size version. The summary of the same original password will give the same result every time, but it is computationally impossible to reverse the process.

Mathematics tells us that a longer password is more difficult to decipher than a short one. This is true even if the shortest password is composed of a wider set of possible characters. What the program does to decrypt passwords is to compute the summary values ​​of large number of possible passwords. Compare the results with the summarized passwords of the stolen file. If one matches, the hacker gets in. Where these programs start first is by known summary values ​​of the most common passwords.

Users who choose a common password could still fall prey to what is termed a “dictionary attack.” The decryption program tests each of the 150,000 words in the dictionary. Then test combined words duplicate sequences and words followed by numbers (“qwerty123”).

The step to random search

Only if the attack on the dictionary fails, the assailant will reluctantly go through what is termed a “brute-force attack,” that is, try arbitrary sequences of numbers, letters, and characters repeatedly until one matches. The math tells us that a longer password is more difficult to decipher than a short one. This is true even if the shortest password is made up of a wider set of possible characters.

For example, a six-character password composed of 95 different symbols on a standard American English keyboard produces 95 6 or 735,000 million possible combinations. They look like a lot, but a 10-character password starting from only the lowercase characters of the English keyboard produces 26 10 141 billion options. Of course, a password of 10 characters from the 95 symbols gives 95 10 59 trillion, of possibilities

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A few days ago, the World Day of Password was celebrated, but do not bother buying a cake or sending cards. The computer manufacturer Intel has created the remembrance as an annual reminder that in general our passwords habits have nothing to celebrate. On the contrary, expect and other...