Don't change pa$$wØrds… I got it wrong, says IT expert

The man responsible for most of your password headaches was wrong, and he's sorry

For years we've been encouraged to dream up weak passwords which are easy for machines to crack, concedes the guy who wrote the book on creating passwords.

This week, Burr told The Wall Street Journal his thinking was misguided. Burr suggested the numbers-letters-special character combo in an eight-page manifesto titled "NIST Special Publication 800-63". The NIST now favors long passwords made up of phrases that are easy to remember and advises that users should only change their password in the scenario of a security breach. When he was working for the National Institute of Standards and Technology and after he created this recommendation guide, it became the sort of sacred text for a lot of federal agencies, schools, and private companies. Based on risk levels, different password strategies may be employed: Random passwords, passwords comprised of multiple words possibly separated with numbers, passphrases (long passwords of 25 or more characters - sometimes full sentences), and even simple passwords each have their place.

But in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the now-retired Burr said most of his advice was incorrect.

He added: "It just drives people bananas and they don't pick good passwords no matter what you do". In practice, people picked everyday words like "Password" and tacked on a new number or character every time they were forced to update it.


It had already banned the use of easy-to-guess passwords (such as password or 12345678) on Hotmail, ever since 2011.

Grassi praised the longevity of Burr's guidelines despite their replacement, saying, "I only hope to be able to have a document hold up [10 to 15 years]", the WSJ reported. In theory the best passwords look like complete gibberish, but they're obviously more hard to commit to memory.

The reason this is coming to light now, the report noted, is that the document recently got a rewrite this summer, eliminating the special character requirement and 90-day policy.

For 20 years, the standard advice for creating a "strong" password that is hard to crack has been to use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Not to mention the carelessness of some people, as made evident by the bad passwords that top "most common passwords" lists every year, with gems like "123456" and "password". "Appendix A", and recommended users change their info every 90 days. Now you'll finally be able to throw away that Post-it note that reminds you what your new password is.

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