Image made using the now retired iPad collage app Mixel.

The present and future of your password

So, you’re a modern person.

You are available on email and social networks. You store files in the cloud and do your banking online. In fact, most of the purchases you do are done online. Life is great. There is only one problem. Every single one of these services requires a password. My friend, you must have a lot of passwords.

Apparently, we have been recommended to not have more than five unique passwords for all of our internet needs. More than that, and you are at great risk of mixing them up or forgetting them. This risk is the same regardless of whether you are old or young.

One trend that comes with being young is having a longer password than older people. Most likely because longer passwords are safer (and that was confirmed in the 2000s). It turns out that when people don’t have restrictions, like an indicator of password strength, when setting a 5-character password 75% of them can be cracked. By just making the password 8-chacarters long the ability to crack them goes down to 17%. To make them even safer companies usually have restrictions (which increases the safety a lot for shorter passwords, but does not make much difference for longer).

Some people have jobs where they handle others personal information and send that back and forth across cyberspace (I love that word!). They need strong passwords. Last year a study reviled that 13 of 14 password-protected files sent between researchers for a study were possible to crack.

But last year was also an exciting year for passwords. An innovative password strategy was proposed based on people with impaired memory. If your memory is damaged you might have a hard time remembering passwords, but you can still learn new skills. Many tests have been done when people with bad memory have performed tasks without knowing that there is an underlying structure to their actions. Not even after being presented with the structure after the test can they recognise it. This means that we can enter passwords based on skill and therefore, remove any knowledge of a password.

This idea was initially developed to prevent people from being kidnapped and tortured for password information, but I see a great future for it among us slightly absentminded everyday people.


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