The Problem with Pattern Passwords

July 17, 2008

Increasingly the places where I work required frequent password changes.  And the new password policies also tend to stipulate lengthy, complicated passwords.  "Must contain upper and lower case letters, numbers, symbols, et cetera."  The kicker is not being allowed to repeat a password for so many iterations.

Developing a good 8 - 12 character password isn't too hard, but having to come up with one every month (or two or five) and not being allowed to repeat them until six or seven expirations periods have passed, is painful.  (In one case passwords couldn't be repeated for 15 months.)

So I developed a pattern on the keyboard that allowed me to create a new password that met the most stringent of pattern requirements, with the bonus of being flexible.  I could simply adjust the starting point and have a new password in seconds.

Problem solved.

Well, almost.  You see I want an iPhone.  I've been to the Apple store numerous times to play with the displays and I am hooked.  There's only one problem.  The touch keyboard only displays letters or numbers and symbols.  Moreover, the physical relationship of the keys isn't quite the same as on a standard 102-key keyboard.  My password pattern is broken by the input device.

Time to develop a new password pattern, or convince the various powers-that-be in my professional life, that once I've created a strong, 12-character password that utilizes capitalization, numbers and symbols, there is really no need to constantly change it.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.