So You Think Your Password is Hard to Crack …

Secure safe with ticking bombIn today’s world, you can’t survive without online passwords. Odds are you use anywhere from a few to a few dozen sites, each of which requires you to “secure” access using a password. Odds are even greater that you have reused at least one, and probably several of these passwords on multiple sites. If you have, and if even one password gets cracked or discovered, that opens the door to each and every account for which you use that same password.

The problem for people then becomes managing so many different complex passwords—passwords that are not easy to crack and therefore, aren’t easy to remember, either. Hopefully, you are not writing them down on an easily accessible piece of paper, as was common practice in the fictional high school attended by Matthew Broderick’s character in the movie WarGames.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways that technology can assist in managing your passwords. Applications such as 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass, LastPass, and RoboForm provide password management tools, and are designed to store sensitive information. This is just a short list of these types of systems; countless more are on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Most of these systems can be accessed with a single master password, or even a fingerprint. Many of these types of systems provide password generators to create “strong” passwords for you, and plugins for your browsers to facilitate logins and to help with credential management.

If you think your password is hard to crack (or if you now suspect that it might be weaker than you originally thought), you can test it out. Microsoft has a weak-password prevention system called Telepathwords that attempts to guess the next character of your password as you type it. You can also try Password Haystacks by Gibson Research Corporation (GRC); on this site, GRC helps you understand what makes passwords harder to crack. GRC states, “If every possible password is tried, sooner or later yours will be found,” and they try to help you determine for yourself whether your password will be broken too soon … or late enough.

Hopefully, it will be late enough.