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How to memorize a new password

Written by John Groves

Computer users are being told to change all their online passwords because of the Heartbleed Bug. But what should you change your password too. And more importantly, how do you remember all your new passwords? Here are some tips to help you.

Password tips

Don’t use names of pets, friends, or birth dates – Hackers can find out a lot about you from social media and take a guess at your password.
Don’t use dictionary words – Hackers can calculate the encrypted forms of whole dictionaries and easily reverse engineer your password.
Do use a mix of unusual characters – try a word or phrase where characters are substituted – MaYtHe4ceBwiThU2 (may the force be with you too). Ideally use a long jumble of random letters and numbers.
Do use multiple passwords – If one system is compromised, then your other accounts will remain safe.
Do keep them safely – Don’t write them down – use a secure password vault on your phone.

Changing passwords is always a problem because of the fear of forgetting the new password. It is possible to make them memorable by using picture, word and location associations.

In order to remember a string of passwords, you have to associate each letter and number with a known or fixed item, using your imagination. The more your imagination is stimulated, the more connections you will be able to memorise.

For example using our password MaYtHe4ceBwiThU2
The phrase *M*artha has *a*dopted a *Y*ellow *t*ree *H*ouse could be used for the first part of the password.
The first letter is M, so associate it with someone you know e.g. Martha, it’s a name so we know we use a capital M.
The second is ‘a’ for the word adopted and its only a small adoption so a small ‘a’.
Yellow is a colour association, it’s bright and big so a capital ‘Y’, and it’s in a tree where she has a very large House.

Now make up a mental picture of Martha standing outside in her garden looking up at a giant tree house which is painted in bright yellow. And so on – the more outrageous the connections the more you will remember the associated number or letter.
If you wish to remember a random formation of letters and numbers, devise your own memory image words for each number and letter. For example B5g3ars. Start with a key image word that starts with the sound of each letter, and make sure the word is easy to imagine and easy to draw. For example, B = Bee in this case a great big yellow bumble bee. If you can think of several possibilities for a letter, use the one that comes first in the dictionary.

A similar rule is applied to remembering numbers – devise key memory images for words that rhymes with the numbers. For example, for the number five use “hive” and the images conjured up for it. So in this example imagine a giant bumble Bee trying to fly into a tiny hive, maybe there are five tiny hives and the bee can’t decide which one to enter.
To remember a random string of passwords you need to “translate” each number and letter of the password you have to remember into an image whether it be in a form of a letter or story, devised from a basic code. Use the letters and numbers you have transcribed and make up catchy words and phrases that link you back to both the number and the letter.

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