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Tired of Memorizing Passwords? A Turing Award Winner Came ­p With This Algorithmic Trick


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Carnegie Mellon professor and 1995 ACM A.M. Turing Award recipient Manuel Blum.

Carnegie Mellon professor and 1995 ACM A.M. Turing Award recipient Manuel Blum says online passwords can be made more manageable through the use of "human computable" passwords.

Credit: ACM

Carnegie Mellon University professor Manuel Blum, who received the ACM A.M. Turing Award in 1995, believes online passwords can become more manageable and secure via an algorithmic method to create what he calls "human computable" passwords.  

The technique has people learn an algorithm and personal key beforehand, and then use them with the website's name to generate and regenerate their own unique passwords on the spur of the moment for any website at any time.  

Learning the key and algorithm only has to be done once, and this spares users from the burden of memorizing passwords, according to Blum.  He says the basic concept is the algorithm and key give the user an alternate letter or number for each letter in a website's name, and that transformed set of values becomes the user's site-specific password.  

There are many possible algorithms that could be employed, while for sites requiring special characters, the user could get into the habit of adding a few to the algorithmic results.  

Blum says the system would present difficulty to hackers, and notes "as long as you don't give away more than a few passwords, you'll be secure."

From IDG News Service
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