Science & Tech

Poetry may hold the key to creating the perfect password

Emails, social media, laptops, online banking, security alarms, utility bill websites, even booking train tickets online - nowadays it seems that everything needs a password.

With cybersecurity fears continuing to persist, the search for the perfect password - one that is easy to remember but also devilishly difficult to hack - is more important than ever.

Now, two computer scientists from the University of Southern California believe they have come up with a solution to this problem - taking inspiration from poetry.

The USC researchers, Marjan Ghazvininejad and Kevin Knight, suggest that a highly secure password is a 60-character sequence consisting of 1s and 0s - taking something like 11.3 years to crack. E.g:


However, because this is so difficult to remember, the team translated the binary code into understandable English using a 2048-word dictionary.

The team took inspiration from an XKCD cartoon which suggests a string of common English words jumbled together is easier to remember than an unusual one using numbers and characters if the user makes a picture in their head about the sentence - in this case, "correct horse battery staple".

To test the theory, the researchers used three different formats - All Letter Method (which created basic sentences), a Frequency Method (effectively the same but using shorter words) and a Poetry method which featured "rhyming iambic tetrameter couplets".

Here are some examples:

All Letter Method: "I know a man who said he was chief of staffs in a real and deep conversation."

Frequency Method: "These big questions are bothering me a bit stronger."

Poetry: Joanna kissing verified / soprano finally reside

After testing the different outcomes on a group of participants, the researchers found that those written in poetry were the easiest to remember.

Although, as Quartz points out, many of these passwords are far too long for a lot of systems, but nevertheless, they sure are easier to remember than what exact combination of letters, numbers and characters you used to log-in on that train ticket booking website six months ago that you suddenly need to use again. Now what was it: P4S5WORD&1 or P45SW0RD£1?

You can try out the password generator for yourself here. Refresh the page to generate a new password... although obviously don't use exactly these.

More: The 25 most popular passwords of 2014

More: Why computer passwords could soon be a thing of the past

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