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Online Extras: News to Note

June 12, 2012

The most secure password of all time

The perfectly secure, perfectly memorable password is absolutely pure and rarer than the unicorn. It is like the Holy Grail, the Fountain of Youth, the philosopher's stone, or a model that will get users on the Internet to pay for curated content. That is to say, no one has ever found it, and some doubt whether it exists at all.

This week Linkedin.com announced that something like 6.5 million passwords had been hacked. If you have a Linkedin account, you had better act quickly and come up with something secure before your identity gets stolen! Or you could just quit Linkedin. That might be easier. Coming up with a secure password is harder than it sounds. And it sounds hard!

Tips abound, but they are even worse than the problem.

The usual rules for picking a password go something like this: Combine a whole bunch of letters and numbers in the precise order you are least likely to remember. This forces you to write them down on a sticky note somewhere visible in your office, defeating the point entirely. (On the bright side, this makes it easier for the investigators to find out about your extramarital affair if you are ever murdered.)

This situation is absurd, but luckily the Internet is filled with tips for secure passwords — and what to do about them.

1. Use a combination of alphanumeric characters and symbols that does not depend on actual words.

A Web site billing itself as "Perfect Passwords" suggested this one: BD052EA0256430 96595A217658B10374242DC59D B397D9088C24DAEAF9059.

Perfect!

2. Use the first letters of the lyrics of a song that you like. For instance, "Billie Jean is not my lover" becomes "bjinml."

This assumes a great deal — for instance, that you remember the lyrics of the songs you like. I love "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but for years I thought the lyrics were "Awastuuuka, keratin augh, amakneeler, zindahealer! YAEERGH." And I am still not convinced that they aren't.

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