How to pick a password that's secure and easy to remember
Password cracking: It's just a matter of time. Here's how to fight back.
The man accused of one of the juicier hacking cases of the past few years is no Internet mastermind. On June 24, a French citizen who goes by the pseudonym "Hacker Croll" will face charges that he broke into Facebook pages, e-mail accounts, and the Twitter feeds of then-Sen. Barack Obama, singer Britney Spears, and other celebrities.Skip to next paragraph
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How did he break in? Police say that he's just a good guesser.
By cruising through blogs and social-networking pages posted online by his victims, he allegedly dug up enough information to guess people's passwords and security questions.
This trick is pretty easy to pull off. Try combinations of family names, graduation dates, birthdays, favorite bands or sports teams – all information that many of us share willingly online.
This isn't a call to scrub down your Facebook profile until it's pointless. But Hacker Croll's story is the latest of many (often-ignored) reasons to improve your online passwords. But since doing so is such a nuisance, here's a simple, easy-to-remember way to craft secure passwords for all the websites that you visit.
Before we roll out the grand plan, let's walk through why most passwords stink.
First, do not use common words or patterns. The most frequent password on the Internet is "123456" – nearly 1 in every 100 people uses it. It's simple, can be typed quickly, and is the first thing hackers will try. Throw in the next 4,999 most popular terms and they make up 20 percent of all passwords used online.
These numbers come from computer security firm Imperva in Redwood Shores, Calif. The company stumbled upon a list of 32 million passwords posted by a bragging hacker who had recently snatched the data from RockYou, which designs software for Facebook and MySpace.
Hacker Croll's tactic works well when targeting specific people, but Mr. Rachwald says that most online thieves cast wide nets.