Heartbleed Bug: How to memorise a new password

Rory Cellan-Jones looks at ways to manage strong online passwords

Computer users across the globe are being strongly urged to change all their online passwords because of the Heartbleed Bug. Memory expert Tony Buzan gives tips on how to remember new ones, which should be a long jumble of randomly generated letters and numbers.

Changing passwords is something many people avoid at all costs, because they fear they will forget the new password. However, you can make something memorable by simply using the power of association and location. In order to remember a string of online passwords, all you have to do is associate each individual letter and number with a known or fixed item, calling on your imagination throughout. The more you stimulate and use your imagination, the more connections you will be able to make, and the more you will be able to memorise.

Password tips

Here are security expert Prof Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey password tips

No pet's names Hackers can find out a lot about you from social media

No dictionary words Hackers can precalculate the encrypted forms of whole dictionaries and easily reverse engineer your password.

Mix unusual characters try a word or phrase where characters are substituted - Myd0gha2B1g3ars!

Have multiple passwords If hackers compromise one system, they won't be able to access other accounts.

Keep them safely Don't write them down - use a secure password vault on your phone

When you find that you have to remember a random formation of letters and numbers, devise your own memory image words for each number and letter. Say for example, I need to remember this random mix of numbers and letters: B5g3ars91fPpq1m2bn4d8Vc3. 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 = Banana. 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 - you devise key memory images for words that rhyme with the sound of the words for the numbers. For example, the key rhyming memory image word that most people use for the number five is "hive" and the images conjured up for it range from one enormous hive, from which emanates a sky-covering swarm of monster bees, to a microscopic hive, with only one tiny bee.

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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