How to Remember All Your Passwords

Last Updated Apr 28, 2010 9:54 AM EDT

A simple way to remember all your passwordsLast week my personal gmail account was hacked and a spew of spam sent to friends and business contacts. Very annoying, but also a wake-up call. Maybe it was time for me to change my passwords to eliminate duplication and to make them stronger. But that raised another obvious problem -- hard to break passwords are also hard to remember and these days everyone has about 15,000 different passwords to keep straight. How to remember them all?
Fast Company's Gina Trapani came to my rescue with a simple tip to help me keep all my passwords straight that I probably should have thought of myself. But I didn't. And since some of my readers may be in the same situation, I'm sharing.
What you want is a different, complex password for each situation. The trick to remembering all those different passwords? Create them all based on a single PATTERN. Here's how it works. Pick a keyword or phrase that never changes, then combine it with something specific to the service you're logging into.
For example, say your keyword is robot. A simple pattern might be the keyword plus the first three letters of a service name. If you're setting a password for Amazon.com, it would be robotama. If you're setting a password for PayPal.com with that pattern, it would be robotpay. That way, every single password you have is different, but all you have to remember is a single pattern.
When you choose your pattern, make sure it creates passwords that are at least eight characters, and includes letters and numbers--even a symbol for good measure. For example, you could substitute the O's in robot with zeroes, or put an asterisk at the beginning of your keyword. You can create some seriously complex passwords that are impossible to crack with simple patterns based on a single key word or phrase.
Well, that's one minor life problem sorted then. Thanks, Gina.

(Image of many locks [apparently a Latvian wedding tradition] by uzvard, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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