It turns out that everything you thought you knew about creating a secure password is wrong. You know the rules: mix letters and numbers, use special characters like pound signs or exclamation points, use both capital and lowercase characters, make it 10 to 12 characters long, and make sure it isn’t an actual word or phrase.  Something like U2kx9H3&*7q! would be ideal. Plus, change that password every 30 to 90 days.  Well guess what?  The guy that came up with those rules says they’re all wrong.  These strong password rules have been adopted by companies, the government, and websites. Turns out they aren’t that effective.  Yes, it’s safer than 123456 or “password” as a password. But how much safer?

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Bill Burr came up with these rules almost 15 years ago while working for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  It turns out that since these passwords are harder to remember, people tend to go for the simple ones. Plus, when they change them, they often only change on or two characters. Also knowing that a site requires one capital letter and one special character can tip hackers off when guessing a password.

Most hackers aren’t trying to guess your password manually. They’re using a program that generates combinations of letters and numbers, trying everyone that’s available. So you end up with passwords that people have problems remembering, but computers can guess pretty easily.

So what are the new rules?

  1. No more changing passwords every month or two.
  2. Get rid of requirements for upper/lower case letters, numbers, and special characters
  3. Create a password up to 64 characters in length. An uncommon phrase familiar only to you is a good choice. Example: “auntsallylovesgreentomatopicklesbutonlyinseasonwithhomemadebread”
  4. Check all passwords against lists of frequently used passwords or passwords that have been compromised.  Click here to visit PWNED Passwords. This site will let you know if your password has been used in any data breaches.

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Though many tech companies have been pushing for more biometrics, the new NIST rules warn against relying to heavily on facial recognition, fingerprints and retina scans, saying these should only be one part of security.  Among the suggestions for businesses and others trying to make accounts secure:

  1.  No more security questions or password hints.
  2. A delay of at least 30 seconds after a failed password attempt and allowing no more than 5 consecutive attempts to input a password before shutting down the account.
  3. Require multi-factor authentication.
  4. Do away with requirements for special characters, capital letters, and numbers.
  5. Allow passwords up to 64 characters in length.
  6. Don’t require users to change passwords unless there’s an issue.

What do you think about the new rules? Does it seem like a simpler way to do things? Let us know in the comments.

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