Father of modern-day password regrets original guidance

NEW YORK -- Formulating strings of numbers, letters and symbols into passwords is a fact of modern-day life, although not a particularly popular one.

Count Bill Burr among the bothered.

"Well it frustrates everybody, me included," he said -- really something when you consider Burr is the father of the modern-day password.

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Bill Burr

CBS News

"I have maybe 200 passwords. I can't remember all those obviously," he said.

Fourteen years ago, writing the official guidance for government employees, Burr suggested picking random combinations and changing them often.

But it turns out something like "SOMETHINGLIKETHIS" is a lot harder to hack than something like "80&3T4!*G$\#ET415" or a similarly long string of random characters.

"It's probably better to do fairly long passwords that are phrases or something like that that you can remember than to try to get people to do lots of funny characters," Burr said.

So a couple of months back, the guidelines were rewritten to reflect the discovery. Burr is now retired, but he helped out.

When asked if he had any regrets about his original guidance, Burr said, "Yeah, I do."

"I think I could have done a better job of figuring out some of the things that we now know, or at least of guessing them" he said.

If only regret was as easy to forget as the passwords he helped create.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.