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CHOOSING SAFE PASSWORDS

Choosing safe passwords helps protect the security of your data and the entire Smith College network. For security reasons, most servers will not allow you to reuse any password you've used in the past. Most servers also require you to change your password at regular intervals, so choosing passwords wisely each time is very important.

  • Most passwords are case-sensitive. Always pay attention to whether you are using upper- or lower-case characters when resetting your password.

  • Don't use a word, proper name, or place name from any language. Computer-readable dictionaries of every language on earth are routinely used by hackers, which means that even your mother's maiden name in Urdu can be as easily hacked as any simple English word.

  • Don't use any simple combination of two shorter words, or any word in reverse, or any word slightly misspelled. All these options are easily discovered.

  • Don't use the name of any real or fictional character in any book, movie, play, comic book, or musical work. All of these, along with any variations in spelling, are easily hacked. The fact that a character name is obscure means nothing. They are all hackable, effortlessly.

  • Your password must be at least five characters long, up to a maximum of eight characters. We strongly recommend using the full eight characters.

  • Your password should be a mixture of letters and numbers. (Banner users: note that the first character of Banner password cannot be a number.)

  • The ideal password is as random as possible, with no apparent meaning. If it looks like you typed it by throwing small rocks at your keyboard from 10 feet away, it's probably a good enough password.

Yes, we know those are hard to remember. You can make life simpler by using your favorite ice cream flavor, broken up with your favorite lottery number: m8i5n3t, or your favorite color backwards, broken up with your shoe size: tel7oiv5. This approach is easier to remember and is still very hard to crack.

Another approach is to make up a short sentence such as, "People at 32 Elm Street drink tea." Then, use the first letter of each word to construct your password: pa32esdt.

With a little imagination and creativity, you can defeat hackers and help keep your computer secure.


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 |  Last updated January 10, 2013

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