News release: “When writing or speaking, good grammar helps people make themselves be understood. But when used to concoct a long computer password, grammar good or bad provides crucial hints that can help someone crack that password, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have demonstrated. A team led by Ashwini Rao, a software engineering Ph.D. student in the Institute for Software Research, developed a password-cracking algorithm that took into account grammar and tested it against 1,434 passwords containing 16 or more characters. The grammar-aware cracker surpassed other state-of-the-art password crackers when passwords had grammatical structures, with 10 percent of the dataset cracked exclusively by the team’s algorithm. “We should not blindly rely on the number of words or characters in a password as a measure of its security,” Rao concluded. She will present the findings on Feb. 20 at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Data and Application Security and Privacy (CODASPY 2013) in San Antonio, Texas. Basing a password on a phrase or short sentence makes it easier for a user to remember, but the grammatical structure dramatically narrows the possible combinations and sequences of words, she noted.”
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