Now that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned of a possible Cyber-Pearl Harbor, it’s time to change your passwords. And guess what: a more secure password is actually easier to remember, if you follow a very simple rule.
Or use plant DNA.
One common suggestion is taking a word, let’s say “Elvis”, and replacing letters with digits to get “3lv1s”. While this makes a password memorable–presuming we won’t forget Elvis–it doesn’t make it that much more secure. Because everybody makes changes just like that….
So how do we select strong and memorable passwords? Here’s how: Think of a story, something weird and memorable that happened to you. Like that time you went jogging and stepped on a rat (ugh). Your password? “JogStepRat”: Your personal story boiled down to three words. If this really happened to you, you won’t forget. And no one else can guess it–unless you’ve told everyone that story, but then you’d just pick another, more embarrassing source story you’d never share!
This approach isn’t just conjecture: It works. It’s been tested at a large scale, and this type of password has twice the bit security of an average password.
All of which is summed up by the cartoonist XKCD:
Speaking of hackers, here’s a pretty map of real-time cyber attacks.
“In October, two German computer security researchers created a map that allows you to see a picture of online cyber-attacks as they happen. The map isn’t out of a techno-thriller, tracking the location of some hacker in a basement trying to steal government secrets. Instead, it’s built around a worldwide project designed to study online intruders. The data comes from honeypots. When the bots go after a honeypot, however, they’re really hacking into a virtual machine inside a secure computer. The attack is broadcast on the map–and the researchers behind the project have a picture of how a virus works that they can use to prevent similar attacks or prepare new defenses.”
If you want to be sure a source is authentic, there’s always plant DNA.
In an effort to crack down on counterfeit computer chips, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) will start requiring companies that sell the devices to the US military to use DNA-tagging to assure their authenticity. DNA-tagging technology involves engineering plant DNA and mixing the unique strands with ink used on the chips, or mixing the strands into materials used in the chips’ manufacture. The technology is used in European banknotes and has helped convict more than 30 counterfeiters.