You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

U.S.

  • US economy grew at strong 4 percent rate in spring
    WASHINGTON – After a dismal winter, the U.S. economy sprang back to life in the April-June quarter, growing at a fast 4 percent annual rate on the strength of higher consumer and business spending.
  • US sues Pennsylvania over police fitness tests
      HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania State Police, one of the nation’s largest forces, is faced with ending the physical fitness tests it gives to applicants for state trooper positions or defending in court a practice
  • Man wrongly imprisoned seeks millions from Connecticut
      HARTFORD, Conn. – A man cleared of murder and rape charges after being locked up for two decades made an emotional appeal for millions of dollars in compensation on Tuesday, telling the state claims commissioner about the
Advertisement
Associated Press
Frustration over ever-growing password lists affects all ages and users, whether for sending emails or playing video games.

Suffer!ng p@ssw0rd f@tigue

– Good thing she doesn’t need a password to get into heaven. That’s what Donna Spinner often mutters when she tries to remember the growing list of letter-number-and-symbol codes she’s had to create to access her various online accounts.

“At my age, it just gets too confusing,” says the 72-year-old grandmother who lives outside Decatur, Illinois.

But this is far from just a senior moment. Frustration over passwords is as common across the age brackets as the little reminder notes on which people often write them.

“We are in the midst of an era I call the ‘tyranny of the password,’ ” says Thomas Way, a computer science professor at Villanova University.

“We’re due for a revolution.”

One could argue that the revolution is already well underway, with passwords destined to go the way of the floppy disc and dial-up Internet. Already, multiple services will generate and store your passwords so you don’t have to remember them.

Beyond that, biometric technology is emerging, using thumbprints and face recognition to help us get into our accounts and our devices.

Some new iPhones use the technology, for instance, as do a few retailers, whose employees log into work computers with a touch of the hand.

Still, many people cling to the password, the devil we know – even though the passwords we end up creating, the ones we CAN remember often aren’t secure at all. Look at any list of the most common passwords making the rounds on the Internet and you’ll find entries such as “abc123,” “letmein” and “iloveyou” and – you guessed it – use of the word “password” as a password.

Bill Lidinsky, director of security and forensics at the School of Applied Technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, has seen it all – and often demonstrates in his college classes just how easy it is to use readily available software to figure out many passwords.

“I crack my students’ passwords all the time,” Lidinsky says, “sometimes in seconds.”

Even so, a good password doesn’t necessarily have to be maddeningly complicated, says Keith Palmgren, a cybersecurity expert in Texas.

“Whoever coined the phrase ‘complex password’ did us a disservice,” says Palmgren, an instructor at the SANS Institute, a research and education organization that focuses on high-tech security.

He will teach a course on passwords to other tech professionals this summer and plans to tell them that the focus should be on unpredictability and length – the more characters, the better.

But it doesn’t have to be something you can’t remember. If a site allows long passwords and special characters, Palmgren suggests using an entire sentence as a password, including spaces and punctuation, if possible: “This sentence is an example.”

He also suggests plugging in various types of passwords on a website developed by Gibson Research Corp. to see how long it could take to crack each type of password: www.grc.com/haystack.htm.

Advertisement