It's actually frightening how wide open a company can leave itself by not making people choose decent computer passwords.  All the firewalls in the world won't help you if someone gets hold of a list of usernames and throws a standard dictionary attack at it.  A company that shall remain nameless had at least one user whose password was always "hello" because it was impossible to have the guy change it remotely from Thailand.

Surrey University had a different approach, or at least, the Physics department did.  Aside from lecturers who you actually wanted to listen to at nine in the morning (Dave Faux, Jim Al-Khalili, and Paddy Regan were my favourites), it had a Dave Munro.  He took it upon himself to periodically run a password cracking program on all the undergraduate usernames.  If he could break into your user account, you had to get a better password.

Better still, we were told how to make a better password.  It's not hard.  Take a phrase from your favourite book or song.  Write down the first letter of each word.  Partway through, insert a number, and a non alphanumeric character like a full stop, a space, or a quote mark.  Change every month or so to your new favourite song or book.  Never, ever, use a word you could find in a dictionary.  Ever.

Subscribe to Quantum Tea

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.
Follow me on Mastodon