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Security Education Companion
A free resource for digital security educators
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Last modified October 26, 2020
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Even though it’s one of the most important things you can do for your online security, creating and using strong passwords can be a tough sell for learners. Secure password advice can conflict, and it’s hard to remember and implement when all you want to do is create an account and start using it! In this lesson, we’ll look at ways to explain the “how” and “why” behind strong passwords.

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Gotchas and Other Problems You Might Hit

  • When making new passwords, there may be a few participants who will forget their new passwords. If people have changed the passwords for critical accounts or for their devices without memorizing their passwords, this activity may cause more harm than good.
  • Consider suggesting people write down their passwords (on paper or in password managers). For those who write down their passwords, remind them to watch out for others peeking at their papers, and to keep these papers in a safe place!
  • It is also worth looking into memory retention techniques for those who have trouble remembering their passwords, like mnemonics, creating illustrations or imagery to accompany the password in the course of their memorization, creating a funny story around the password, and so on.
  • Some people may have trouble with typing long passphrases due to motor difficulties. If this is the case, provide accommodations for them to still participate, but perhaps loosen requirements on the exact number of words for the passphrase.
  • Others may have trouble with a passphrase generated from the diceware or random dictionary word selection technique, perhaps due to issues with being able to spell the word. Consider making an accommodation by helping them to choose another more familiar, but still sufficiently random, word.