Linked by Howard Fosdick on Sat 10th Nov 2012 07:28 UTC
Bugs & Viruses If you want to ensure you have adequate passwords but don't have the time or interest to study the topic, there's a useful basic article on how to devise strong passwords over at the NY Times. It summarizes key points in 9 simple rules of thumb. Also see the follow-up article for useful reader feedback. Stay safe!
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RE[4]: make 'm long
by kwan_e on Mon 12th Nov 2012 02:48 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: make 'm long"
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"I'm ignorant on these matters, but I don't see how passphrases could feasibly be cracked using dictionary based attacks.

The number of possible words and alternate "spellings" is large, especially if you consider multiple languages as you've mentioned.

While you're right that such attacks would require massive dictionary of words - it's still significantly more streamlined than a typical 'brute force attack' which will try every character combination individually.

But from the point of view of the cracker, a passphrase containing words is indistinguishable from a password of the same length with random letters, numbers and symbols.

First, they have to make the assumption that the passphrase is made of words, rather than just a long password. Then they have to test out combinations of words. So you have word choices of possibly over 10,000 words per word; you have alternative "spellings" of those words which can be a mixture of capitals and lower case and numbers making the word choice at least twice as many; then you have combinations of words for an unbounded number of words in the sentence. Then there's the problem of how the words are joined together.

A quick search doesn't turn up anything significant about dictionary based attacks on passhprases for me, so I don't know how much research has been done on it.

You also mentioned "without writing it down", but I was under the impression that was also out of date ideas about password protection. The chances of someone physically getting your password is practically zero, since most people won't risk it, most people aren't that important, and those who do risk stealing things generally aren't after written down passwords (assuming they know the username the person uses).

You're talking about 'security through obscurity' and that's a pretty bad philosophy to have.

There's been cases where 'normal' individuals like ourselves have become over-night public figures because of stories that break out in the press (eg relatives of crime suspects) and have subsequently been stalked over social media by reporters after a cheap story.

There's also cases about answer phone hacking that broke out earlier this year and many of those cases were against regular people.

And finally, regular people do get their accounts hacked all the time (eg my Paypal account was hacked a few years ago)

So don't think that your relative obscurity will protect you.

I'm not talking about security through obscurity, but the relative unlikeliness that a password written down will be any less safe. Your hacked Paypal account was not hacked because you wrote down your password and it was copied somehow. None of the hacking cases, as far as I know, was because they wrote down the password.

The threat of hacking is not remedied by obscurity, but the stealing of passwords that are written down is mitigated by obscurity.

There's been a few articles in recent times about the whole "don't write down the password" being outdated advice. People regularly forgetting passwords and needing them to be reset opens up to many potential mim or phishing attacks posing as the password reset service.

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