Strong Passwords Can Be Easy

Passwords are a necessary evil on the Internet. Every site requires a login, but we’re always cautioned not to use the same password for more than one site, as though anyone could remember several dozen passwords and which sites they match up to. Most importantly, perhaps, we are always reminded to make sure we use strong passwords that won’t be easily hacked, so we struggle to come up with eight or more characters, and include capital and lowercase letters, plus numerals and special characters. It’s enough to make anyone’s brain turn somersaults.
The practice of “random” passwords was recommended in a 2003 publication from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Due to a lack of current data, that publication was largely based on a paper from the 1980s, which, naturally, went out of date at the speed of the Internet. This same publication advocated changing passwords every few months, another practice that simply isn’t very practical today.
It turns out that the standard formula for a strong password might not be the best practice. Recent research has shown that longer pass phrases of four words or so are actually harder to crack than the mixed-character single-word passwords we’ve been using. Today, the NIST has changed its recommendations. They now suggest using a longer passphrase, which is easy to remember, and only change your password if you suspect the account has been compromised. Welcome to the new world of easy passwords!
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