How to Create Absolutely Foolproof Passwords

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foolproof passwordsIn addition to being a disaster readiness consultant and author, I’m also a licensed private investigator. I’ve been working in the security and investigation fields for over twenty years now. I’ve had to learn how to create foolproof passwords.

My specialty is with computer-based investigations, such as e-mail tracing and deep background checks. Many of us spend hours each day working with computers. With that comes the requisite passwords we need to create on a regular basis.

The problem is, we sometimes have a hard time remembering all those passwords. Some of us resort to writing them down, which sort of defeats the purpose of having a password, right? In an effort to create easy-to-remember passwords, we end up with stuff that’s easy for others to figure out.

Think back to the most common passwords you’ve used. I’m betting at least some of them used your children’s name(s) or your pet’s name. For the guys, one of the most common passwords is the make or model of your vehicle.

Now, while you may be at low risk of having someone try to break into your online account at the local library, any time you’re dealing with financial matters, such as making purchases or doing online banking, you want the strongest password you can create.  But, the stronger the password, the harder it can be to remember.

Here’s a trick I learned years ago that you can use to create an all but unbreakable password that is also extremely easy to remember.

Choose a nursery rhyme. For example, we’ll go with Humpty Dumpty. Go through the first line of the nursery rhyme and write down the first letter from each word.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall = HDsoaw

Now, either before or after those letters, write down the last four digits of the home phone number you had when you were a child.  If that won’t work for you for some reason, how about the combination to your locker at the gym?

1234HDsoaw or HDsoaw1234

This can also work by using a book you always have nearby instead of a nursery rhyme. Just use the first sentence of the book instead of the first line of the rhyme.  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” becomes Iwtbotiwtwot.

Or maybe the first line from your favorite song?  “It’s all the same, only the names will change,” becomes Iatsotnwc.

Some sites and software programs require you to change your password on a regular basis. Just go to the next line of the rhyme each time you need to change the password.

Here’s the best part. If you are extremely forgetful, rather than writing down the actual password, you can just write down the name of the nursery rhyme.  Think about it. Who is going to guess your online bank account password just by seeing “Humpty Dumpty” written down?

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Jim Cobb is a disaster preparedness consultant and author. His books include Prepper's Home Defense, The Prepper's Complete Book of Disaster Readiness, and Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide.

12 thoughts on “How to Create Absolutely Foolproof Passwords”

  1. I like using movies and the year it was released. For example – Star Wars, A New Hope = SWANH77. You can also use symbols such as $WANH77 for an added layer of protection.

  2. Great info. Do u know any pi working in pa. Need some help with a stalker/thief

    U can pm me. Thanks

  3. I also put my numbers through my word for example if you pick the work ‘fork’ or ‘butter’ then you put your numbers inbetween and if you need to update your password just change your numbers eg f1o2r3k4 if you need to change it f9o8r7k6 people are less likely to guess random everyday objects

  4. Stealth Spaniel

    Really good ideas. The constant need for new and varied passwords is vexing at times. This will give me a chance for some new and unusual passwords.

  5. farfrompuggin

    I suggest taking computer security advice from computer security experts, people you would cal geeks, eggheards, nerds, and the like. This advice seems sound, though might not hold up to actual attack to a determined attacker. I suggest that you start by looking up Steve Gibbs of grc dot com and his podcast Security Now with Leo Laporte. They and the whole TWiT team make computers and IT stuff much more palatable for the average and IT savvy user. If you’re already savvy, then the Security Now podcast is probably the only TWiT podcast you might like. I suggest also looking into Bruce Schneier. He’s got a blog and is an IT/PC/networking security researcher and won’t point you wrong. He has a bio with his creds, you should read that to start if you’ve never heard of him.

  6. farfrompuggin

    As far as not being able to remember passwords, its better to have one of sufficient complexity and that you have to write it down, than it is to have one so easy to remember that it is weak to a determined attacker.

    the product Lastpass is a friendly, easy to use, very secure password manager that works across all modern platforms and is dirt cheap. You only have to pay for it if you want it on your smartphones, otherwise it’s free. It is “trust no one” (TNO), so at no point can they divulge your information if they wanted to, or if they were ordered to.

    A completely free alternative, without the cloud sync, is KeePass. You can integrate KeePass with Dropbox, though that’s more for technicaly savvy users. I am a techy guy and I decided against this and went with Lastpass.

  7. I do this sort of thing except use a favorite slogan or saying. Even better, use a different language (Latin is always a personal favorite). If the password rules for the site allow, I try to switch at least one letter to a “special character” (like an “a” becomes “@” or an “i” becomes “!”). To make different passwords for different sites (never use the same password for multiple sites if possible), instead of using a fixed thing like an old phone number or such, figure out a pattern that uses the website address (like first two and last two letters of the main part of the address… ignore the “www” if it’s there).

  8. Horrible advice, not because it is not a good technique, but because the author did not mention that any password 10 or fewer characters can be broken in a matter of seconds using rainbow tables once the hacker has the password hash. And when you hear of Target and Home Depot, etc. in the news, that is what was stolen, the user id and password hash. So make your password LONG. Almost nothing else matters. FredFlintstone is almost as secure as #f_9x48GrEdf5d. Warp it just a bit and you have an unbreakable password. For example: Fr3dFlintstone

  9. Easiest to use is something like LastPass password manager or KeePass password manager. Just remember to make your master password well over 10 characters long.

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