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Password creation hint #5

Published: 8-27-2012 9:15 pm

Greetings all,

We in NATS hope that your first week of the term was productive and smooth. We certainly shared having a busy week with all of you, not least of which was handling a number of password changes. This series of notes regarding passwords, while fun (for us at least) and humorous (for you hopefully), had at it's heart a serious intent. Strong, easy to remember passwords that are not forgotten and not written down on sticky notes and placed under keyboards or on monitors are crucial for maintaining the integrity of the system, protecting your personal data and our shared data as an institution. If we can invest a few minutes to get people thinking about good security, not only do we make WSC's systems more secure, but we save time at the help desk that can be utilized to more directly provide a better teaching, learning and living environment. We hope this series of hints has provided you with some tools to create strong passwords and at the same time, make them easier to remember.

With that in mind, password hint #5: Addresses

I really wanted to do something in this series with the translation of spacial maps to passwords. We have maps all around us and they have a vast amount of data in them. All of the password creation techniques we've discussed this week are based on the premise of taking data and rearranging it in some way that is memorable to you but no one else. Map data is no different, but finding a good way to translate it down into a password is a bit challenging because maps use primarily numbers to designate locations (I.E. longitude and latitude). The easily relatable exception I thought of was a Bingo card - where a combination of letters and numbers are used to denote locations on a piece of paper. Since most people I know don't keep a bingo card in their wallet or on their desk, I kept searching, and then it hit me. Street addresses! Street addresses have capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation - all the ingredients for a great password. Obviously you don't want to simply use your street address natively, but if you, in essence, make an acrostic from your street address (or even better, a former street address that you remember well), you get a great password.

Take, for example, WSC's street address:
1111 Main St.
Wayne, NE 68787

Take the first character of each token (plus all punctuation) in the address: 1MS.W,N6 and you've got a super password.

For a different approach, use the second character of each token and take all of the abbreviations in whole: 1aStaNE8 and Bingo, another great password. B42 anyone?

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