the supreme value of a secure password (and why you need 4 of them)

Last week I raved about 1Password and promised details on my recommended strategy for passwords.

I am going to ask you to change one habit – one thought pattern: the idea that you need to be able to remember all your passwords.

If you use password-management software for all your passwords & don’t know them by heart, a worst-case scenario is that your data file gets deleted or corrupted and is inaccessible. Every account out there has a way to reset the password. It’s an annoyance, but nothing more. Not the end of the world.

I recommend that you have a total of 4 passwords that you can remember. Each of them should be different than the others; each should contain numbers & letters & symbols; and each should be impossible for anyone to guess. The 4 passwords should be for:

  1. your computer
  2. Dropbox (I will write about this more in a future post, but if you need to keep your 1Password file in sync with other computers or mobile devices, it’s very easy to do so if you keep the file in Dropbox.)
  3. 1Password
  4. Apple / iTunes (If you don’t use iTunes or the iPhone / iPad app store — congratulations! You only need 3 distinct passwords.)

That’s it. Four passwords out of the likely hundreds of online accounts you have. All the rest of the passwords can be completely random strings of characters that you don’t need to think twice about remembering.

For the mobile device lovers out there, you will also need to know either a PIN or password for each mobile device you have. The more data on it, the more important that it’s secure. But if you have a secure root – a base password that no one can guess – then it’s easy to add on a prefix or suffix for the device.

Dealing with passwords has become an enormous topic in our time. The above is just one method. What are your recommendations for approaching password management? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below.