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Reflecting on Password Creation: Ensuring Your Password Stands Strong in Today’s World

Reflecting on Password Creation: Ensuring Your Password Stands Strong in Today’s World

In my line of work with computers, I am still often shocked by some user passwords, especially when I hear the rapid tapping of four or five keys followed by a decisive press of the Enter key. A lecture on password creation might well begin with the question, “Who here uses their pet’s name as a password?!” Silence fills the room, so I continue, “Don’t be shy, admit it – after today, you’ll surely change it”. And before anyone dares to respond, I swiftly add, “Who uses their pet’s name as a password and has a picture of their pet on their desk?” A dramatic pause follows, then I add, “At work?” A wave of nervous laughter sweeps through the room…

Does this scenario sound familiar? OF COURSE!!! This could be the annual loop of thousands of warning videos, yet it remains a real situation, not just a comedic sketch. Many even receive hints in movies where, when it comes to cracking a password, the intruding character typically scans the room, often amidst blatant product placement, and almost always tries to use hints from pictures, diplomas or awards. These clues are glaringly obvious and yet…

Creating a basic but secure password can be surprisingly easy, akin to a motivational phrase like ‘Today is a beautiful day outside’ (even when it’s raining, I feel compelled to add).

At the heart of this phrase lies a multitude of variations and adaptations that we encounter in the translation world and CAT systems, which I turn to for explaining terminology, memory, separators, and the principle of segment match calculation.

Indeed, if we use a common descriptive sentence: ‘Today is beautiful.’ and a more exclamatory sentence: ‘Today is beautiful!’, these two sentences are not the same to CAT systems. The difference in separators, in this case a period versus an exclamation mark, is a significant category of potential errors. However, the content of the message in both sentences remains the same.

When we use the sentences ‘Today is beautiful.’ and ‘Today was beautiful.”, the change constitutes a whole third of the message content. Despite the change, even if the words ‘Today’ and ‘beautiful’ were terminological, the match between the sentences would show a significant drop to merely a similarity level.

Another possible sentence development is adding a location. For example, comparing the two sentences expressing a significant sentiment: ‘Today is beautiful outside!’ and ‘Today is terrible there’. While the earlier sentence: ‘Today is beautiful.’ and ‘Today is beautiful outside!’ differ by only one word and a different separator, the latter sentence has only a fifty percent match, and the level of similarity completely disappears.

What does this have to do with creating user passwords?

The principle is similar. If you use a password like ‘J0#ny’ and think you’ve outsmarted the system… well. Freely available databases contain these variants. You need to delve into more detail, for example, using a descriptive sentence as a password is more sophisticated.

If you use generated passwords, that’s also correct; they are very secure. However, their difficulty to remember often leads to the use of password managers. This can include writing down passwords on sticky notes and sometimes even worse security nightmares.

Try radically transforming your simpler password by using a descriptive sentence and altering some characters. For example, we’ll use the sentence ‘Today is beautiful outside!’ again.

A password like ‘todayisbeautifuloutside!’ is much better. A variant change could be ‘TodayIsBeautifulOutside’, with the first letters capitalised, or we could differentiate between consonants and vowels: ‘ToDaYIsBeAuTiFuLOuTsIdE!’. As a starting point, such a password is better, it even includes a special character ‘!’, which is valued, but experts will note it also lacks numbers (not without reason do most platforms require such a combination of characters from users today).

A much safer password would be ‘T0D@Y1sB3AuT1FuL0uTs1D3!’, which meets high standards. The combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and two special characters, along with its length, sets a high bar, and yet it remains relatively memorable. It can be further enhanced, for example, by alternating between replacing letters with numbers in one word but not in the next, and then again in the following word.

A truly difficult password to crack, which would require significant computational power to breach your account, might look like this: ‘T0D@Y1sB3AuT1FuL0uTs1D3!’.

Still not enough? Add a number after each word, for instance, after T0D@Y the number of uppercase letters, after 1s the number of numbers, after B3Au the number of lowercase letters, and finally, preferably after a separator (exclamation mark), the total number of characters in the password.

The password ‘T0D@Y11s5B3Au2T1FuL0uTs1D3!22’ would resemble a quality generator, and typing such a password would surely impress every colleague over morning coffee, even in an IT workplace.

Still not satisfied? Targeted synonymisation might help.

If you desire an even greater sense of security in your passwords, try composing them using targeted synonymisation. A single meaning can often be expressed with many different words and constructions, so even a small change in expression using synonyms can significantly impact your password’s security. Consider expanding the sentence ‘Today is beautiful outside’ to ‘This day evokes a sense of beautiful weather.’ This approach creates a new expression of content and, due to the more elaborate synonymic construction, adds sophistication and depth, potentially leading to the creation of even safer and more unique passwords.

The password ‘Th1SD@Y3v0k3sA5EnS3OfB3AuT1FuLW34Th3R!39’ could then be the start of a great robotic joke. 😉



Wishing you safe days!

Josef Mareyi, CAT/AI Specialist



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