Creating Safe Passwords – Mac Tip November 3rd 2017

For all of us, from the serious “power user” with hundreds of accounts to the first time Mac user, our passwords are one of the most important parts of our digital identities. From social media like Facebook and Twitter, to email in Gmail and Hotmail, to online shopping and digital payments through Amazon and Paypal, our online accounts are the gatekeepers for tons of our personal information.Despite how critical these accounts are, many of us find it difficult to treat online security with as much attention as it really demands. Hear it from us: it’s worth it. Your credit card information, personal identity, social insurance numbers and more could be at risk without a safe and secure password.Over the years, requirements for safe passwords have gotten more and more complex in line with the continuing development of more powerful processors. The website howsecureismypassword.net is a great illustration of how quickly even an inexpensive desktop PC can break a password simply by trying a long list of possibilities.

Try typing a few passwords similar to yours into the site and see how they are rated. You’ll find that the longer your password (generally over or around 16 characters) the safer it is, and the more types of characters (capital letters, numbers, etc.) helps as well. And don’t forget that computers can now access databases of common phrases, too.

The passwords that are easiest for us to remember, yet difficult for a computer to break, include several regular words that we can break into a mnemonic. Randall Munroe, the creator of the famous XKCD comic, wrote this comic in which he popularized the phrase, “correct horse battery staple”. It can be tough for us to remember substitutions or misspelled words, like “Grap3frooT”, but if you can picture the password in your mind, it becomes much easier.

Length also generally trumps complexity when it comes to password breaking, which is why Randall’s phrase is actually more effective than the above “Grap3frooT” example in spite of being easier to remember.

The next step, once you have a good password, is to come up with several for your different accounts. You can then use a tool like 1Password to help you keep them all organized, without leaving yourself vulnerable to people who will test your broken password against multiple different accounts.

As always if you have any questions about this week’s Mac Tip, or really anything else, feel free to email us back or give us a call at 250-995-3020. Thanks for reading Mac Tips!