Time to create new passwords

Farhad Manjoo did not tell me to use lemon juice for invisible ink to make coded spy documents. Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for Slate, but he may not have been a Cub Scout. Farhad convinced me to make new user names and passwords for online accounts today, by way of his column reprinted in today's Dallas Morning News.

I've had fun creating file names ever since my first computer math class at East High in 1972 or so. Back then we did our programming assignments by typing a punchtape. The computer was somewhere in a big room up the Interstate in Omaha, and I can't remember how our punchtapes got to Omaha to be run. I do know Mr. Beckman was our computer math teacher, and he wasn't properly impressed by my witty file names.

Spent several hours today working for a friend of a friend building a filing system. I tried to create logical file names for him to access his teaching materials, but old Mr. Beckman was on my mind. Could I understand enough about how this friend of a friend thinks to make a filing system that fits his retrieval process?

According to Farhad Manjoo, automated systems can analyze our computer and online activity to discover all our account passwords. Pretty amazing since I can't figure out the way my Dad's memory encodes things for future recall. Tonight Dad is watching baseball and trying to get his mind around the proper spelling of Andy Pettitte's name. I don't understand why this is important to his personal filing recall. I can't hack into his system.

So much of teaching preschoolers involves asking questions to help kids realize they already know their own answer. How do we help them build their inner filing and retrieval systems?

What are the questions we ask to create our own mental organization? What do we ask to decode another person? How can an automated program uncover our secrets?

Farhad Manjoo recommended a technique for creating nearly-uncrackable passwords that are still memorable enough when we want to log on:
  1. Begin with an original, personal, memorable sentence.
  2. Turn it into an acronym.
  3. Add some symbols, numbers, and capital letters.

To that I would add in vintage American Bandstand Rate-a-Record style:

  1. Make sure it has a good beat.
  2. Dance to it.
© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

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