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Most of us have probably experienced times when the only thing standing between ourselves and an important transaction was our failure to remember a password. Computers, automated banking machines, point-of-sale card scanners and dozens of other electronic devices all depend on alphanumerical passwords for additional security. The problem is that remembering which ones belong to which devices can be extremely frustrating. There are several ways to remember passwords, however, including mnemonic devices, personal references and word associations.
One method many people use to remember passwords is personal references. Whenever someone has the option of creating a personalized password, it is often easier to select numbers or letters with personal significance. Four digit codes, for instance, could be a former street address or phone number. Using current personal information in codes is usually discouraged by security experts, but people rarely forget numbers from their past. If the password must be numerical, then you should mentally associate it with your personal history.
The same holds true for alphabetic passwords. The words used should hold some personal meaning, such as the name of a beloved pet or favorite relative. It could also be a nickname from your childhood or a character from a favorite book. The point is to form an association between the password and personal information only you would know readily. Hackers may do some research into their victim's personal lives, so it may not be a good idea to use things like a current spouse or child's name.
Another way to remember passwords is to create a mnemonic device. If you've been issued a password with random numbers and letters, you need to create an easily remembered phrase, even if it makes no sense aloud. If one of your passwords is SN23K, for example, you may think "Sid Needs 23 Keys" or something equally memorable. Those containing random numbers could be remembered as word puzzles. A series of numbers such as 1231144 could be remembers as 'The apostles needed a whole month to a gross of eggs'. It may sound silly, but you'll always remember 12 apostles, 31 days in a month, and 144 eggs in a gross.
Sometimes passwords are recognizable by their patterns. Numerical codes such as 1357 or 2468 are easier to remember than random ones such as 2719. Muscle memory can also help people remember their most commonly used passwords. Logging into a personal computer, for example, requires the same password every time. Eventually, your fingers will recognize that pattern of keystrokes even if you have difficulty recalling it mentally. Picture a keyboard or a numerical pad in your mind and allow your fingers to recreate these familiar patterns.
@Cageybird- I'm just about as bad for using the same passwords for all of my accounts. I take advantage of any offer my computer makes to "remember" a particular password. I'm not too worried about anyone hacking into the computer at home, because it's rarely out of my sight. I tend to add a new digit to an existing password if a website insists I change it.
I have seen programs that offer to manage all of my passwords and also help with password recovery. It has security questions that only I could answer, and it knows all of my login passwords but won't use them automatically. The only thing I haven't added to that password management program is my Windows password, because I prefer to keep that one stuck in my head.
I have to admit I'm one of those people who uses the same password for just about everything. I know it's dangerous, but I am terrified of losing access to something really important just because I can't remember a complicated or random password. It happened to me at a bank once. I needed to withdraw some cash from an ATM in another state, and I couldn't remember my login password. It was a random four digit number created by the bank, but they couldn't just reveal it to me by request. Fortunately they also had security questions, and I answered one right.
From that point on, I created a simple mnemonic to remember that password number. If it was
something like 9513, I'd think "Evil Bill Gates released Windows 95 on Friday the 13th". It sounds complicated, but it's a sentence I'll remember forever. I can just say "Evil Bill Gates" and the entire number 9513 will pop into my head.
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