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by Phil Ball

Q. I've been advised to change my passwords on several websites and now have the problem of coming up with several new passwords. I find it annoying to have to create tough to crack passwords that I can remember. Suggestions?

A. I recently ran across a tip that make difficult passwords easy to create and remember and yet secure enough that they cannot be easily cracked. They should take a hacker program years to crack them because they are so complicated.

The trick is to use the first letter of each word from some favorite song lyric and make it even more complicated with a few simple tricks. For example, (please do not use this for your password but rather make up your own from a favorite song, hymn, or phrase) I used part of our national anthem: "Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light, What so proudly we hailed, at the twilight's last gleaming." That would make your password: OscysbtdelWspwhattlg. Note that two of the letters which are the beginning of a stanza are capitalized as they are in the actual lyrics. As if this weren't complicated enough for some hacker to try to figure out, try adding a few characters such as # or & and then add an easily remembered number such as the year you were born or the year you were married. So you wind up with something like OscysbtdelWspwhattlg#1947.

How do you remember it? I have a password master list that is abbreviated for security. I would put in the website name (eg Yahoo), my user name (eg PhilB) and a clue as to what I used for a password (EG 2tssb#b). This reminds me that the password for this website is the first 2 lines of The Star Spangled Banner followed by a pound sign (#) and the date of my birth without having to list the actual password. This is enough of a memory jogger for even my flaky memory about which song I used and is much more secure that Mom's maiden name which may be a matter of public record.

Published: Courier 7/20/14 - Page 1D