Memorable but secure passwords

Command Line – Password Generators

© Lead Image © tiero, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © tiero, 123RF.com

Article from Issue 227/2019
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CLI tools for generating passwords have many options that can help you strike a balance between ease of use and security.

How should you generate passwords? You probably know the standard advice of using a variety of characters, but the resulting passwords are hard to remember, especially since the recommended length keeps getting longer as cracking methods become more sophisticated. It's enough to make users choose convenience over security and use the same password everywhere – which is just about the worst thing you can do. Yet even if you choose unique passwords in every circumstance, how random can passwords invented by one person truly be? And what strategies can you use to make random passwords memorable? A password manager can ease the daily burden, but what happens if your password manager becomes corrupted? What were simple issues a couple of decades ago have become complicated today, with no easy answers.

Ask security experts, and the answers to these questions can be conflicting. However, that doesn't stop the developers of password generators illustrating possible solutions. Many implement traditional answers, but others are starting to implement ways of making passwords more memorable, either by tweaking tradition in various ways or taking a new approach altogether.

PWGen

PWGen is one of the oldest password generators for Linux [1]. It is based on the traditional password advice, providing eight character strings for passwords that include lower- and uppercase letters, numerals, and special characters. This pattern can be modified by the options in Table 1 to produce an easier to remember password, but remember that excluding types of characters will probably result in a weaker password. For maximum security, specify --secure (-s), which will maximize the mixture of characters (Figure 1).

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