Password guru has new advice for keeping your data safe

Posted August 10, 2017

But the man who came up with the rules on these "safe" passwords more than a decade ago has admitted that his advice was wrong. NIST updated the guidelines in June and released a new set of rules in "Special Publication 800-63-3". In an 8-page guide, he decreed that passwords should be made from unusual mixes of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, and that they should be changed regularly. The problem is that humans suck at remembering passwords filled with random numbers and symbols, so they typically create simpler passwords that are easier to guess.

The system actually ended up making things less secure as people had to write down their passwords to remember them - and many people only altered one character when changing their password, which didn't stop hackers.

The 72-year-old outlined what has become password Gospel while working for the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2003.

Long, easy-to-remember phrases now get the nod over insane characters, and users should be forced to change passwords only if there is a sign they may have been stolen, says NIST, the federal agency that helps set industrial standards in the U.S.

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Hackers rely on "brute force" cyber attacks as computers cycle through every possible combination of characters to guess a password.

Used a dictionary to prevent subscribers from including common words and prevented permutations of the username as a password.

Burr now regrets these rules and says that he was wrong about them.

Those guidelines have since been updated, but Burr's advice has spread over the last decade and become nearly ubiquitous. Instead, length is the best way to make them less easy to hack. This technology combines the convenience of a contactless sensor with biometric security, and uses image recognition and optical technology to scan the normally invisible vein pattern of the palm.

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Then there are the subsequent messages that follow after we inevitably make an entry that the checker does not like: "Your password must be at least eight characters in length and contain at least one of each of the following: capital letter, lower case letter, number, and special character". The database is encrypted, he says, and you only need to know one passphrase to get access. "Both customers and businesses now have a far more secure choice of authentication and verification through the use of biometrics".

For example, the more often you ask someone to change their password, the weaker the passwords they typically choose.

As an extra security precaution you might be forced to change your password every month, but of course it's too hard to remember an entirely new password so we simply cycle through from "p@ssw0rd1" to "p@ssw0rd12" throughout the year.

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