Passformula: Create Complex, Unique Passwords and Remember Them All26 Apr 2020
In this post, I would like to share a simple but highly effective strategy to come up with a strong, unique password each time you create a new account on any website. Also, you will be able to easily recall it at a later point in time. I call it Passformula, based on the existing Passphrase strategy.
I came up with Passformula around 5 years back when one of my email accounts reported login attempts using my ‘favorite’ password from a country I had never visited. I had used the same password on many websites and one of the websites was compromised risking all the other accounts. Luckily the email provider’s security check saved my account. But it was a wake-up call for me.
The idea is to create a one-time, well-defined formula to create a password from the name for the service/website domain you’re trying to log in. You would apply this formula each time you create an account on any website and later use the same formula to get the password at the time of the login.
For example, let’s say this is your Passformula you would apply to a website’s domain name:
- Take the second letter of the domain name in the upper case
- Last letter in lower case
- Convert the first vowel in the name to a digit (assign digit like a is 1, e is 2, i is 3, o is 4, and u is 5)
- Find the total number of characters in the name. If the total is two digits, calculate the sum of the digits of this number until sum becomes a single digit. Use the special character on your keyboard at this digit key.
- Your favorite word. This remains the same in all passwords. Ex: Taleb, Wozniak. Convert to Leet code. So Taleb would become T@l3b. This part is mainly to get the total length of the password greater than 8 characters.
If we apply this formula say while signing up on grammarly.com, our password would be: Ry1(T@l3b
This is a strong password with high probability of being unique across all your accounts and you don’t have to remember it. Just remember the formula and next time when you have to log in to this website you will be able to ‘recall’ the password easily.
Let’s take one more example. Say you use service like zenkit.com. Based on the above formula the password will be: Et2^T@l3b
As you can see, there are many ways you could create your formula. In the above example, I have shown how to create a password with the first 4 characters unique. But you can go to any extent, as long as you could remember the formula.
Before I wrap up, here are some special cases I encountered while using the Passformula:
The website that does not support all special characters: You might want to avoid an uncommon special character or keep a fall back formula for such a scenario.
The website expires the password after a certain period: Usually the period is 1 to 3 months. In such cases, instead of using your favorite word at the end of the password (Taleb, in the above example), you could use a time factor like month in which you are setting the password. Ex: April could become @pri1. Hopefully, your frequency to visit such websites is higher than the rotation period and you could guess the correct password in a few attempts worst case. This is not a clean approach and should be avoided if cost of getting the account locked is high.
If you are using the special character formula mentioned in the above example, you would have to know the QWERTY keyboard layout for special characters. This may not be the case when say you are using mobile. Keeping the QWERTY keyboard image handy on mobile could be a solution to solve this problem.
Hope you find this useful. Let me know what you think.
Disclaimer: Needless to say, this is just a strategy to create a password and does not automatically make your account full proof. It could also have reverse effect, if you manage to leak your Passformula.