Sam Brown

Managing Multiple Personal Passwords

The magnitude of personal password management has really hit the forefront of the industry recently with a plethora of sites and services requiring you to have a password to login with, and more often than not having to remember a username for said site as well as the password.

How do you manage to handle it all? I hope you aren’t using just one password! Here I try and explain my methodology without giving away too many of my secrets!

This quick run down of my processes regarding password management may be insightful to some, and seem ridiculous to others, and if you think you have a better way of doing it be sure to let me know!

A Level System

I have literally hundreds of sites, services, applications or programs that require me to type in a password to access it, trying to remember a unique one for each would be difficult and having the same password for all could be disastrous if someone was to find it out.

My personal system works in levels, 3 to be exact, Level 1 being the highest. The levels look something like this:

  • Level 1 – Online Banking, Server, PayPal & Publisher Passwords
  • Level 2 – Database, Site CMS, Client Passwords
  • Level 3 – Digg, Newspapers, Del.icio.us, Web Service Passwords

Now, let me set the record straight and say that I do not value my del.icio.us password any less than my Online Banking password. I hope they are equally as secure, but if someone was to find out my del.icio.us password I would certainly not be as upset as if someone found out my Online Banking password!

Renewing Passwords Quarterly

There are several passwords for each level, thus my PayPal password is not the same as my Root Server password. So in total I have to remember anywhere from 6 to 9 passwords which isn’t terribly hard when you type them in many times a day.

Every 3 months I renew the passwords in the following way: Level 1 Passwords are replaced with brand new ones, Level 2 Passwords get a hand-me-down from Level 1 and Level 3 receive the previous Level 2 pass. Like so:

  • January to March
  • Level 1 apple
  • Level 2 banana
  • Level 3 orange
  • April to June
  • Level 1 pear
  • Level 2 apple
  • Level 3 banana

What works for me, may not work for you.

This way of doing things allows me to only have to remember a few passwords at any one time.. remembering which sites use which passwords does require a little extra brain work I’m affraid.

I really believe that only having one or two passwords for all of your password-ing needs is a very bad idea, if that password falls into the wrong hands someone will have access to all of your logins! Be careful, and remember to renew your passwords frequently!

If you have a different way of doing things do let me know, my methods were a culmination of many years practise and several discussions with Chris Erice who with several Hosting Businesses probably has even more passwords to remember than me!

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Sam Brown co-founded Iterate, and was previously VP of Design at Foursquare. Based in NYC.

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