CSI: UW Lock & Key

We’re back again this week with another installment of CSI:UW – today’s episode, keeping your private information safe on your computer…

Lock & Key

Could someone really hurt you if they had your password? Your password is like a key to a lock. With your password, threatening email could be sent from your account. Items could be purchased on web sites where you have enabled one-click shopping. Your bank and other sensitive account information could be accessed and used without your knowledge. Your credit rating could be affected. Your identity could be stolen. People could get access to University systems that contain sensitive employee, student, and financial information.

Security is your responsibility. Help keep your information and University of Wyoming data safe by using a secure password. Below are some tips on keeping crackers at bay.

Secure Passwords

It is important to use a strong password for your accounts. The easiest way for someone to gain access to your accounts is to figure out your password. It is easier to crack a password than you might think! For example, if you only use 6 characters in your password, and they are all lowercase (abc), a password cracking program can crack your password in under 5 seconds! The chart below gives the approximate times to crack sample passwords of different lengths with different possible characters on a modern Supercomputer, trying 1 billion combinations per second:

Password Maximum Time To Crack
092743576 Instant
SUBLIMATE 1 hour, 30 minutes
sUbLimatE 32 days
ChEckE12 60 hours, 30 minutes
Che+cK_m 34 days
ChE+K-M8 83 days, 12 hours

UW helps protect against these types of password cracking tools by locking out accounts after three incorrect attempts.

Here are some tips for creating a secure password.


  • Do make your password easy to remember. You should be able to type it quickly without having to look at the keyboard.
  • Do use at least 8 characters (and less than 20) when creating a password.
  • Do create a password with at least 1 letter, 1 number, and 1 special character (\-_+~!*[]%,?{}:/|^’), and have it be a good mix of the three.
  • Do include both uppercase and lowercase letters in your password, in addition to the numbers and special characters.
  • Do change your passwords routinely – at least every 60 days.
  • Do embed extra characters/misspell. For example, if you wanted to use “Sunshineday”, try “SunSSh1neD+aya” or “Sun$$h1n3+Dayy”.
  • Do use unusual capitalization. For example, instead of “Sunsh1ne+Day”, use “sUnSh1NEd+Ay”.
  • Do concatenate two or more words or parts of words when creating your password.


  • Don’t use the special characters $@&”(),<>’;=# in your password.
  • Don’t make a special character the first or last character in your password.
  • Don’t make a password that contains your username or parts of your full name longer than 2 consecutive characters.
  • Don’t set your password to anything you’ve used previously.
  • Don’t use simple keyboard patterns like A1B2C3D4, or p0o9i8u7. These are very easy to crack.
  • Don’t use your username, or simple permutations of your username. For example, if your username is Bigfoot, your password should not be Bigfoot+1, Big_F00t, foot_b1g, etc.
  • Don’t use any personal data (any data someone might associate with you). This includes names, nicknames, pets, social security numbers or phone numbers, birthdates, or license plate numbers.
  • Don’t use words that can be found in the English dictionary in your password. A modified phrase works the best. For example, instead of “Sunshine_1”, use “L3tTh3$_$hIne”. Instead of “Christmas+25”, use “Xms25thov?Dec”.
  • Don’t use words in a foreign language in your password, especially if the language used can be guessed (for example, it is your native tongue).
  • Don’t use university, college, or state team names in your password. These can be very easy to crack.
  • Don’t use names of famous people, places, things, TV shows, etc., that can be associated with you. For example, if you like the show Law and Order, you shouldn’t use Law_0rder as a password.
  • Don’t have your password contain the word “password”, “secret”, “god” or “root”.
  • Don’t give your password to anyone else. Ever. Not even to your co-workers or managers.
  • Don’t record your passwords anywhere they could be vulnerable. If you must write them down, keep them in a safe place that no one has access to. Never post them on your monitor or under your keyboard.
  • Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts. If your password is cracked, the hacker will have access to everything.
  • Don’t use the same password, or the same 2 or 3 passwords, over and over when you have to change them.
  • Don’t use any of the examples above as your password!

Current updates, free software, and information on UW’s Computer Security Initiative may be found on the CSI: UW computer security pages (www.uwyo.edu/security). You can also contact the IT Help Desk at (307) 766-4357, option 1; or send an email to userhelp@uwyo.edu.


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