Why Your Next Password Should Be A Poem

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Shout out to all the ladies in the house whose email password is their pet's name — that's super sweet, but it's time to make some changes. Linguistic researchers at the University of Southern California recently found that making a short poem is one of the most memorable methods of creating a password. It'd make Shakespeare proud, and it's way more secure than just swapping out a couple of O's for 0's.

Researchers generated lists of three different approaches to password construction: meaningful, if longer, sentences; shorter sentences using rare words; and two eight-syllable, rhyming lines written in iambic pentameter — a couplet, essentially. They then presented the lists to 62 study participants, only to find that the couplets were the easiest to recall. Study findings do not specify if these participants were English majors.

With the growing number of accounts and data we have online, the issue of password security is becoming increasingly important — especially since we see apps and websites getting hacked left and right these days. In fact, Yahoo is doing away with the use of passwords altogether. But, for the rest of your various accounts, it's still important to spend some time making a password that you'll remember and a hacker wouldn't be able to guess it in five seconds, whether you choose to sample a sonnet or not. And, even if you do construct a secret piece of prose, please heed that nagging Gmail warning and set up two-step verification, too.

If you need some help, the researchers, Marjan Ghazvininejad and Kevin Knight, PhD, developed a couplet generator, which you can take for a spin here. The best one we have so far is, "Amazing Fletcher avenue / Assignments primitive taboo." All right, maybe we'll just come up with one on our own.

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