Selecting Robust Passwords to Protect Your Office Documents

We recently wrote about cracking forgotten passwords for PDF documents and looked at a few programs in various price ranges.  One thing we concluded was the more difficult the password the harder it is to crack.

If you can buy password crackers anyone who gets a protected file of yours can buy the same programs.  The ideas presented here will help you choose passwords that will be extremely difficult to crack or take so long that the cracker will give up.

Here are some tips on creating a robust password.

Any password based on words will be easily cracked. If you think you have chosen a unique password like tr0ll$R0ck or cR3@t1ve you can rest assured that some cracking program has thought of that and have added these substitution characters to the computer-generated dictionaries.

Names of characters from the Old World or Star Trek are out.  Tr1bbl3$ will be easily cracked.

A hard password could be generated by opening up a text editor and randomly typing until you have 128 characters.  Use that password to protect your PDF or other file and a cracker would need a supercomputer dedicated to cracking that password for quite a few years.

The bad side of this is that you will need to save this password somewhere and use it to unlock your file.  If you keep it on your computer, someone can discover it when they take or access your laptop.  If you keep a copy of the password on a thumb drive, you can lose it.

Randomly check the undersides of keyboards and mice and you can find all sorts of passwords ready for your use.  You may even find yellow sticky notes on the monitors!

You need to make your password easy to remember, yet difficult to crack.  Nonsensical sayings make the best passwords.  Take “1Lb3&$$”. This password would be fairly difficult to crack as a brute force method would need to be used and could take a day to a week to crack.  The password was generated from the silly saying “I like blue eggs and silly string”.

Now that you get the idea, think up some longer sayings and hopefully you will frustrate someone who tries to crack your passwords.  Don’t use song lyrics or books as they are probably in someone’s dictionary.  By the way, don’t use my short example; it will surely be in someone’s cracking dictionary.

Password Hell photograph via Flickr by Ron Bennetts


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