It's a Catch-22 situation: People rarely use strong passwords because they are impossible to remember, and yet they've been told time and again never to write them down, which only makes them harder to memorize.
There's got to be a better way, you say. Well, to a degree, there already is. Programmer Chris Zarate has created an online password generator application that functions in a way I've never seen before. It actually works witha user's bad memory rather than against it.
Bookmarklets can be generated for Firefox and IE and are created via the secure MD5 algorithm, which makes them impossible to reverse-engineer. No information of any kind is transmitted to an outside server to create the bookmarklet or generate the password. You can also create a bookmarklet with the master password hard-coded into it (if you're reasonably certain you'll be the only one accessing the computer) or one that prompts you for the master password each time. The script can even automatically populate password fields in the current page as needed.
This is a creative and powerful solution to a problem that isn't going to go away soon.
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
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This was first published in March 2006