A Password Brain Teaser With an Unexpected Snag


[Image courtesy of The Next Web.]

One of the curious aspects of being a modern Internet user is figuring out how to manage your passwords. Most sites, whether commercial or recreational, have log-in screens or other account info, and it’s up to you to remember passwords for these numerous accounts.

You could use the same password over and over for everything, but that’s not a terribly safe choice. You could keep a list where you write down your different passwords to each site in order to keep them all straight, which is also not safe. You could opt to use a password-management service to handle them for you, which is a bit unwieldy for most users.

And if you need to come up with a new password for each account, you might find yourself employing a puzzly technique like Mira Modi’s in order to conjure up a password.

[Image courtesy of In the Black.]

Recently, Gizmodo writer Rhett Jones posed a password-centric brain teaser to his readers, asking why the seemingly safe-looking string “ji32k7au4a83” might not be a good choice for a password.

Can you puzzle out why?

I’ll give you a few moments to ponder it.

All set? Okay, here we go.

As it turns out, “ji32k7au4a83” is the Chinese equivalent of one of the worst choices for a password. Using the Zhuyin Fuhao system for transliterating Mandarin to English, “ji32k7au4a83” becomes “my password,” a top contender for terrible password ideas like those compiled below:

[Image courtesy of Ars Technica.]

Yup, as it turns out, that random string of letters and numbers isn’t particularly random after all.

You’d be better off using a technique suggested by one of my fellow puzzlers. To generate her random passwords, she composes a sentence related to the website, then uses only the first letter of each word in that sentence as the base for the password.

Toss in a number or two, and voila, you’ve got something that appears to be gibberish, but is easily recalled and reassembled for your own use.

Pretty diabolical! Give it a shot and let us know how it works for you!

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