Codebreaker

Super-difficult passwords – as easy as riding a bike

Marc Sanchez Jul 23, 2012

We’re about to celebrate a big anniversary here at Marketplace Tech Report: our hundred bazillionth warning about using better passwords. Seems like we’re warning people once a week, at least, to not use consecutive numbers or birthdays or the word “password” as their password, and sometimes all we can do is give a giant sigh for humanity. Some neuroscientists and cryptologists at Stanford have decided to take pity on our heavy hearts as they have come up with a way for you to remember a 30-character password. The best part: there’s no thinking involved.
The website that you might find seated next to you at a monster truck show, Extreme Tech, explains:

The system, devised by Hristo Bojinov of Stanford University and friends from Northwestern and SRI, relies on implicit learning, a process by which you absorb new information — but you’re completely unaware that you’ve actually learnt anything; a bit like learning to ride a bike. In short, the system teaches the password to a part of your brain that you cannot physically access — but it is still there in your subconscious, just waiting to be tapped.


There’s a bit of a learning curve, which requires about 45 minutes of testing, but the good news is that test is made up of playing a game. And that game, well, it sort of looks like Guitar Hero, and as you tap out letters “S-D-F-J-K-L” in random sequences to match those on the screen, your subconscious brain is taking on the task of remembering the 30-character password.
Now go make like Yngwie Malmsteen, make some guitar face, and shred up a new password already.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.