Is there a bigger hassle than password management?
Based on ample evidence showing that a majority of users opt for simplistic, easy-to-guess passwords like "123456" and, sadly, "password," I'd say no.
Here's the problem: You need a robust, virtually impossible to crack password. You need a different one for each and every site and service you use (to limit the fallout if hackers steal a password database). And you need an easy way to remember those passwords.
There are a number of utilities and browser plug-ins that can both generate secure passwords for you and plug them in when you sign into a site--thus eliminating the need to remember them.
But what if you're using someone else's computer, or a smartphone or tablet? Then you won't have easy access to those passwords.
That's why I've started using a different method for password generation and management, and I've found it pretty effective. Check it out:
1. Come up with a single, secure password you can commit to memory, one that mixes letters, numbers, and symbols. In my case, I might use a familiar word like HassleFree, but modified thusly: Hassl3fr33!. All I did was replace each "e" with a "3" and tack on an exclamation point. That's now my baseline password (for purposes of this example--not in real life).
2. Whenever I sign up for a new service, I use the name of that service as the prefix, then add my unique password. Thus, for something like Amazon, my password would be AmazonHassl3fr33!. For eBay, it would be EbayHassl3fr33!. And so on.
Presto! I've got a lengthy, secure, unique password for every site, one that I can easily remember.
Is it the perfect solution? When it comes to passwords, I'm not sure there's any such thing. A hacker who steals a password database could probably extrapolate my method--if he looked closely and really thought about it.
But this works for me, and if you're routinely struggling to come up with and remember passwords, it might work for you, too.
Got a better system? Tell me about it in the comments!
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums.Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.