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Last on

Mon 13 Jan 2014 11:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 04 November 2013

Last year, a computer cluster was unveiled that can cycle through as many as 350 billion password guesses per second. Passwords have never been weaker and hackers have never been more powerful. For most people, passwords are the first and only line of defence for confidential information online. We've been taught that passwords are the answer - as long as they are elaborate enough.

Your password must not follow any predictable pattern.
Your password must not reference any events you have personally witnessed.
Your password must be a closely guarded personal secret.
Your password must not be something you would use as a password just to get past a password reset check.
Your password must be impossible to remember.

But, today, that's becoming a fantasy - businesses, banks, schools, governments and individuals have all been hacked.

In this social history of the password, Tim Samuels travels to Las Vegas for a password conference where he meets the man responsible for the most popular cracking software, a former US Army interrogator who now builds super computers and a passionate Norwegian who believes passwords are here to stay.

We hear how easy it is to crack Tim's password and witness the elaborate steps some people go through to protect their online information. Have we reached a stage where passwords that are secure enough to resist hacking are too hard to remember? If passwords are living on borrowed time, what can protect us online?

Producer: Barney Rowntree
A Hidden Flack production for BBC Radio 4.

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