In this technological age, we must create codes to identify ourselves. For our protection, not only do we need user ids or other account numbers, but we also need personal identification numbers (PINs) and passwords. Unfortunately, one aspect of this technological age is that many numbers and words with meaning to us can be easily exploited against us. Also, we’re always told to never write down these codes or store them near where we need it, despite the fact these locations are the most expedient for us. Thus we must use whatever creative capabilities we have to develop sensible, easily remembered passwords that are not easily determined.
So you’re thinking about coming up with a four-digit PIN number. Many personal dates will be simple for the laziest thieves to decode. Your personal birth year and birth date are ones these goofs will try first. Your anniversary date and year also may be too easy to determine. You might be able to use your spouse or your children’s birth dates and years; if you’re divorced the date of official termination may work, provided you wish to remember. However, these make me a little nervous because they are a matter of public record. More challenging dates to use include years of high school or college graduation, but for those of us in our 20s or 30s, these are not extremely difficult to crack, as the numbers in the middle will be the same, e.g., 1992 or 2003. If you must use a date, use a friend’s birth date, provided it isn’t too close to your own. NEVER use any part of your social security number.
My personal favorite to use for PIN numbers is the last four digits of a phone number. I don’t recommend your current personal phone number, cell phone number, or office phone number – they are too easy to trace back. Instead I recommend using phone numbers from your past or of friends you frequently call (and hence remember). For example, you can use your parents’ phone number or a phone number you once had (if like me you moved frequently). Again, if the number has two or more identical numbers sitting together, that number may not be advisable for a four-digit number. If you use the full phone number I think you may be able to get away with two numbers together. With these numbers, although it may be possible for a criminal to research these possibilities, I would have to give credit to the industrious ingenuity this person has demonstrated and recommend law enforcement hire this person rather than incarcerate them.
As for passwords, we’ve already learned most of the rules most programs provide. Never use any word that’s intelligible, try to use numbers and switch cases around, and if possible use special characters. Unfortunately, these rules remove most of the passwords we can easily remember. Some people I know use names with personal meaning and substitute numbers and symbols at certain points, like an 1 or ! for an “i” or an 8 or @ for an “a” or a 0 for “o”. I also like $ or a “z” for “s”. Unfortunately, mixes for your own name are not a good idea, as those are fairly easy to determine. As for less associated password ideas, I like using acronyms or phrases you can combine as one password. Acronym examples include Every Good Boy Does Fine for the lines on a treble clef staff, and My Dear Aunt Sally for the basic order of operations for mathematics. However, these acronyms should mean something to you and also be difficult for someone else to remember. Sentences and phrases can work if they’re short, such as jackhatespeas, and don’t repeat too many letters. You can also try using a favorite book title or author, again changing the letters around as you desire.
I hope these ideas help you. In fact, by writing this little entry I’ve given myself ideas so that I can replace some of my favorite passwords in the near future.