back to article Google recommends pronounceable passwords

Google has updated its password manager to recommend pronounceable passwords within its flagship Chrome browser. The experimental feature was the latest development which could make it into the regular versions of Chrome as part of steady improvements to its password capture, storage and generation. Chrome evangelist and …

  1. frank ly

    Mxyzptlk

    em eks why zed pee tee el kay

    I wonder if they take into account that the user may be Polish (etc) and is using a password this is perfectly pronounceable for them.

    1. ratfox
      Happy

      Strč prst skrz krk!

      I wonder how many people have this as their password…

    2. dynamight
      Coat

      Re: Mxyzptlk

      According to DC Comics it is pronounced mixipitelik.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mxyzptlk

      How nice of Google to provide such a convenient route to getting the NSA everyones passwords quicker & easier.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First Microsoft and now Google calling for easier passwords. Are the spy agencies having problems easily raping our private data or something?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, because both companies now use cloud backup as a standard (though optional) on their OSs.

  3. SoltanGris

    FeeFeeFo FeeToA WonAFiTwee.

    If you know what that is, you are a racist but you also have a new scheme for making does payswods.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've been using pronounceable, but meaningless passwords for years. There's no reason that "Kelantia valotismi tysomar dovis" is any less secure than the standard "Correct horse battery staple"

    1. Notas Badoff

      Unless...

      That happens to be Finnish for "Correct horse battery staple". I'd be waiting for it to suggest "me mangiare idiota"

  5. Jin

    Managing very strong password by pronouceable passwords

    Generally speaking, hard-to-break passwords are hard-to-remember. But it is not the fate. It would be easily possible to safely manage many of high-entropy passwords with the Expanded Password System that handles images as well as characters.

    Each image/character is identified by the image identifier data which can be any long. Assume that your password is “bowbow” and that those characters (treated as images) are identified as X4s&, eI0w, and so on. When you input bowbow, the authentication data that the server receives is not the easy-to-break “bowbow”, but something like “X4s&eIwdoex7RVb%9Ub3mJvk”, which might be automatically altered periodically or at each access if required.

    When such high-entropy data are hashed, it would be next to impossible to quickly crack the hashed data back to the original password. Give different sets of identifier data to “bowbow” and the different servers will receive all different high-entropy authentication data. Brute-force attacking of “bowbow” and other similarly silly passwords would perhaps take less than a few seconds with dictionary and automatic attack programs but it could be an exhausting job when criminals have to manually touch/click on the display with their fingers.

  6. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Bruce Schneier has a blog post on ways to produce memorable and secure passwords. He no longer recommends the XKCD method.

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Schneier's reasoning is flawed, though. His criticism starts from a false premise.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      I'm not sure what "false premise" Graham Dawson is complaining about (Graham, care to elaborate?), but I agree Schneier's comment about the XKCD method is rather glib:

      Modern password crackers combine different words from their dictionaries ... This is why the oft-cited XKCD scheme for generating passwords -- string together individual words like "correcthorsebatterystaple" -- is no longer good advice. The password crackers are on to this trick.

      But of course "on to this trick" isn't an objection in and of itself, because of Kerckhoff's Principle: attackers shouldn't be able to determine the password1 even if they know what method you use to create it.

      I keep a randomized word list that contains a bit under 100,000 words. Four words drawn at random from that list gives me close to 1020 possible combinations. So attackers can test on the order of 107 ("eight million per second", again from Schenier) to 1010 (supposing a cluster of 1000 such machines)? That still leaves them with, on average, a job that will finish in 5x109 seconds or so. It's a risk I'm willing to run.

      Let's say that consciously or unconsciously I actually decline to pick any of 90% of the words in my dictionary, and attackers have exactly the same dictionary to work with. Now I'm down to 1016 possibilities, and the super-attacker with a 1000-machine cluster only needs around 500,000 seconds to determine my password. Why, that's less than a week! What a terrific use of resources by that attacker, in this extremely unlikely scenario.

      And, of course, after picking my words I tweak the passphrase a bit, just to add a little to the number of permutations an attacker has to try, and to satisfy ill-conceived "password strength" filters. And perhaps I use five words rather than four. And so on.

      Attackers are free to "combine words from their dictionaries" to create candidates for my passphrase preimages. Combinatorial explosion is overwhelmingly still in my favor.

      Sure, if you pick from, say, the 100 most common English nouns and the 100 most common English adjectives (a dictionary which, incidentally, misses all four words in "correct horse battery staple"), you're working from a relatively small entropy pool; there are only 2004 possibilities (or 200P4, about 3% less, if you don't allow a word to appear more than once). Even with the measly 8-per-second machine someone could crack that in a second or two, if they have the same dictionary. But increase your dictionary to 1000 words and pick five of them, and you're back to several days' work effort even for a dedicated attacker with a cluster.

      It's worth reading the comments to Bruce's post. Many people take exception to his critique of Randall's method.

      Of course, it's also worth noting that what Bruce says is the "XKCD scheme ... is no longer good advice". A lot depends on how large the dictionary is, and even more importantly how words are chosen from it. Some people suggest that Randall's scheme (at least as typical users understand it) involves the user trying to think of four random words that can then be visualized. You really want a stronger randomization process - building a dictionary of "words the typical user is likely to be able to visualize" isn't trivial, but it's still a heuristic an attacker could use to prune the dictionary. (And given sufficient input in the form of known passphrases of this type, it would be trivial to train an HMM or similar algorithm to rank words.)

      1Or, better, passphrase.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > attackers shouldn't be able to determine the password even if they know what method you use to create it

        Yes, if every user applies a cryptographically sound key generation technique this is indeed the theory. I think Bruce's general point is that if you ask the average punter to string 3 words together the amount of entropy is far from what it looks like, and so the algorithm is not cryptographically sound - you either need longer key lengths (more words), or a new algorithm.

        > Why, that's less than a week!

        I assumed that he's talking about rainbow table attacks working backwards from a website which has leaked a hash, the issue is not processing time (you only have to generate the rainbow table once per salt), but the amount of space it takes to store the tables.

        Assuming most users pick from a relatively small pool of words in common use, it's not an insurmountable search space. Yes, the total search space in theory is pretty enormous but, I suspect many people have a password with "Cat" in, and many more with "Dog", and more than a few with "Password". Hackers only have to skim off the 1% of the easiest passwords to get into a system- not the 1% of the geeks with the uber difficult ones which are hard to remember ;P

      2. -tim
        Black Helicopters

        Are you sure it isn't in my dictionary?

        His example of "This little piggy went to market" shows the problem. That is in my password dictionary. When the "make up a password from the 1st letter of words from a song" started to be popular, I ran a small poll asking people to write a line from 3 Beatles songs and 3 songs by a popular country artists. Several hundred people responded and there were less than 100 unique lines and 10 lines were common to something like 80 or 90% of the respondents. The result of separating the lists based on their likely musical taste resulted in some scary guesses on which lines they would pick. When the same thing was run latter without requesting the specific musicians, the results were tainted by the previous request.

        /Black Helicopter since the some of the guinea pigs were supposed to keep them secure

  7. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Password Managers

    The update is Google's latest encroachment into the territory of online password management dominated by LastPass and 1Password, who could well feel threatened as Chrome builds in functionality they once offered as third-party value adds.

    Browses have offered some kind of form fill/password manager for years, and password managers still sell, so I don't see Google's changes as any threat to them.

    Personally, I prefer a standalone password manager as they are genuinely cross-browser and cross-platform. (Oh, and in this particular case, not Google. "Don't be evil", my arse...)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We *love* password managers..

    .. especially the Cloud based ones - makes our life so much easier.

    Regards, the NSA

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We *love* password managers..

      Depends on your usage requirements really. Cloud-based is risky; triply so if you're trusting some other bugger's code and encryption.

      On the other hand, by maximising entropy and letting a computer remember it for you; you're minimising to virtually zero brute-force and guessing attacks.

  9. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    VMS had this in the early 80s

    It would produce pronounceable nonsense passwords, filtered to remove vulgarities.

    1. robwatson

      Re: VMS had this in the early 80s

      That takes me back - it reminds of the hilarious (and I believe genuine?) support call where a user complained that although the password obscenity filter was a useful feature, it lacked internationalisation, then helpfully provided translations to several languages. The footnotes were the best bit - e.g. "the female breast is never offensive in Danish". It would be great if someone still has a copy.

      1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

        Re: VMS had this in the early 80s

        Sensible folks, the Danes.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Swedish actually, though one poster questions it

        Usenet post on comp.os.vms

        "We had some fun understanding the cultural differences.

        One small example was that, if I recall correctly the Swedes had far fewer hangup about bodyparts. For example there was not 'dirty' equivalent for 'breasts' in Swedish, or so we were told by our Swedish friends/peers at the time. ( Or maybe they just wanted to have a few good ones slide past the test? :-) "

  10. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Why?

    And there was me thinking that you were never actually supposed to tell anyone your passwords, making pronouncability meaningless (unless of course you tend to mumble them to yourself whilst typing them). Not to mention ending up with words that are recognisable and so memorable for anyone who may have a view of your keyboard whilst you type and are key-reading.

    In two words, "sod that" - I'll keep my shifted and substituted passwords thanks. I can quite easily remember the baseline word(s) from which they're generated, but what gets typed and used is moved from that.

  11. Dr. Mouse

    While I, personally, like the "Correct Horse Battery Staple" method from xkcd (with my own modifications), I have had my own, similar, method for a while, which works around some limitations (like stupid sites which insist your password can be no longer than 10 characters, alpha-numeric only).

    Firstly, come up with a phrase with 8-10 words (easy to remember), then use the initials of those words, along with some easy-to-remember substitutions.

    Example:

    "The Register is good for amusing IT news" becomes (without revealing some of my unique rules): "TRig4aITn". I haven't analysed it, but I believe it makes reasonably strong passwords, which are very easy to remember.

    1. Def Silver badge
      Headmaster

      A strong password, nine characters do not make.

  12. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Remembering the bloke who was Admin for the PDP11...

    I asked him for the 'root' password once.

    He replied "Its a complex key sequence"

    It was. Precisely that.

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Remembering the bloke who was Admin for the PDP11...

      Well, that stops apostrophe pedants from logging in at least :)

      1. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Remembering the bloke who was Admin for the PDP11...

        I got severely chastised for setting passwords to 'Changed'

        Seems users didn't know what I meant when I said "Your password is Changed"....maybe it lost something in translation

  13. 2460 Something

    XKCD all the way!

    When I am talking to someone who does not understand that having a single short word with a number at the end is not secure it is great to be able to point them to XKCD. It is succinct, to the point and easily understood. Additionally this can then act as a basis to discuss with them how to create passwords that they can remember and yet be orders of magnitude more secure, however, if all they get out of the process is that they create passwords that improve even slightly, it is still better than where they were.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Good Idea

    Here Jayne, is Stewart over in the fayre

    or was it

    Hear Jane, is Stuart over in the fair

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    密码

    Will this do???

  16. phil dude
    Black Helicopters

    paranoid..

    now I am thinking google has a rainbow table of all the plain password combinations....

    P.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pronoucable Passwords?

    I've been doing that for about 30 years now.

    Dave

  18. John Tserkezis

    Am I the only one using something like KeePass?

    The secure files are usable on a Wintel PC, WinRT tablets, Android, PocketPC, iPhone, iPad, Mac OSX, Blackberry, J2ME phones, PalmOS, Linux, and that's just what's mentioned on the site.

    I can't remember, and don't have to remember secure passwords. More so, I don't have to remember which phonetically-sounding password I used at what point - I have hundreds of the buggers, I can't remember that, and I'm not about to re-use passwords either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I the only one using something like KeePass?

      Isnt that the website that went down for a couple of days last month?? Locking all their users out of everything?? GOOD ONE!!!!

      1. Rimpel

        Re: Am I the only one using something like KeePass?

        No. It's not cloud based. Nice one!!!

  19. Potemkine Silver badge

    Am I the only one to think...

    ...that storing passwords in a browser is a very bad idea?

  20. MatsSvensson

    Ökäntnördrövhålfrånbålsjö

  21. Mike Flugennock

    How about "FUCKOFFGOOGLE"?

    ...just throwin' it out there.

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