When it comes to creating a strong master password, the common suggestion is to pick 5 or more diceware words.
While using random diceware words is a great idea; it’s not the best for memorizing. If you can’t remember your master password, what good is it anyway?
I have come up with a solution that I feel is way better for the average person. This solution also works well in other factors you’re not even thinking about.
Note: This is for creating a master password used for a password manager. I don’t recommend doing this for every password; It’s better to use a password manager to generate random passwords for the other passwords.
How to Create an Easy to Remember Master Password
Pick 4 or More Questions
To create a master password, you need to come up with 4 or more questions.
The magic of this relies on the questions you pick. You want to avoid easy to guess security questions like the ones your bank or other websites use.
The questions that work best are based on your obscured life events. Maybe you got fired from a job for wearing white socks; the question would be “what did I get fired for.” The crazier the question from your life the better.
It can be hard coming up with these questions off the top of your head, so that is why I have some listed below. Feel free to use them or make changes. For the best results use at least one question you came up with.
- Where you met your spouse
- Something embarrassing you did (GluedFingers)
- The one restaurant you or someone you know hates
- Wedding anniversary (6/15/79)
- Name of stuffed animal or imaginary friend
- Name of the painting in your living room or object in the painting
- The serial number of a dollar bill
- The time now or the exact time it takes to commute (2:53PM)
- Childhood pets name
- License plate number or Drivers License Number
- Your child or spouses nickname
- Your 3rd favorite twitter person (@snubs)
- The teacher you loved/hated
- Favorite emoji (volcano)
- Oldest/youngest siblings middle name
- Grandfathers middle/first name
- Your 3rd favorite website URL (cnn.com)
- Grandmother middle or first name
- Favorite TV show episode (MoneyBart)
- Health insurance number
- One random diceware word – why not? Could use it as a separator for the other answers
- Yours/spouse/kids favorite food
- How much your favorite food/drink cost ($7.69)
- The URL of where you pay your electric bill
- The name of the person who saved your life
- Your mortgage/car payment ($469)
- How many calories or sodium your favorite snack has (370mg)
- The whole or part of the UPC code for your favorite snack (017082890061)
- The longitude or latitude of your favorite place (48.8583)
- Something spontaneous you did (Jump out of Plane)
- Where was your first kiss
- Name of the pill you take
- That one thing your coworker does to piss you off (SmellyFeet)
- Name of the place where your wedding reception was held
- Where were you when you heard about 911
- The model number for the shoes you like to wear
- Serial number to your watch
- Last 5 digits of your credit card
- If money was not needed what job would you do? (Fireman)
- Favorite chapter name from your favorite book
- The name of the person you hate the most
- Pick a random object from your favorite show (Blue drum)
- Pick a random word from a random website.
- Your current weight or goal weight (169.2)
- Your height multiplied by the month you’re born in (66 in * 7 = 462)
- Favorite podcast episode
- 2nd favorite YouTube video title
- The current stock price of a random company or your worse performing in portfolio (95.19)
- The 3rd person to the right of you last name in your graduation class
- Random product in your home (Clorox)
- Last 5 digits of your computer or phone’s serial number
- 3rd ingredient to your favorite food (Rice Flour)
- Serial number to your washing machine
- The ink cartridge model number your printer uses
- How much space is currently available at the moment on your computer or phone (23.4GB)
- Name of the 5th most used app on your phone. (Use screen time app to figure it out)
- 2nd word of the last text message you got
- The 6th word in the body of an email you received from someone who has now passed away.
- Name of a store you or someone you know hates or loves
- The random username you use on a site (mr.pickles12)
- What part of your body do you hate
- The name or model of your fridge or other big appliance in your home
- The name of your 3rd favorite YouTuber
- Your favorite book, 14th page, the third word from the top left
- Pick a random city you’ll never go to
- Use the local fast-food store number. You often find these on the credit card or bank statement line after you bought something from them (TacoBell#6789)
Write Down The Questions
Write down 4 or more questions like so.
- Favorite podcast
- What part of your body do you hate
- Wedding anniversary
- Your mortgage/car payment
Then answer those questions.
- Favorite podcast = GOG
- What part of your body do you hate = back
- Wedding anniversary = 06/05/1995
- Your mortgage/car payment = $378
Combine the answers. Use a space or any character(s) to separate the answers.
What you have created is not only a strong master password but something easy to remember too.
Feel free to use as many questions as you want. I would not go lower than 4.
- Serial number to your watch = FD384OP
- Something embarrassing you did = GluedFingers
- Childhood pets name = Spot
- The 3rd person to the right of you last name in your graduation class = Brown
- That one thing your coworker does to piss you off = late
- How many calories or sodium your favorite snack has = 370mg
- Favorite emoji = eggplant
- Name of stuffed animal or imaginary friend = fluffy
This last one used the word “FROG” as a separator. Feel free to use other words like this or any other character to separate the answers. There is no wrong way to go about this; just don’t overdo it.
It’s Okay to Write down Your Master Password
It’s okay to write down your master password. I’ve seen way too many people forget their master password to their password manager and get locked out.
With this method of creating a master password, it allows you to write down your master password in confidence.
Write the questions down on a piece of paper that you keep in a fireproof safe or anywhere that you trust. You have the option to include the answers or not (depending on how much you trust your roommate). Since you know the answers, you don’t need to write them down. Maybe leave a hit that the answer is one or two words and what you use to separate the words if you want. Also, make sure you’re aware of what is capitalized or not; go all lower case if you need to.
When in doubt, write down the answers (your master password) and keep the paper somewhere safe like a safe deposit box or fireproof safe.
Another benefit is that it could be used for loved ones to gain access to your password manager if something were to happen to you.
If you use questions that only people you know will know the answer, you could leave instructions on how to combine the answers to make your master password. You could print this page and keep it with the questions so they can figure it out.
It could even allow or force a group to come together to answer the questions. Maybe your wife only knows the answer to question 3, and your sister knows the answer to question 1. This way, everyone has to come together to unlock the vault and not just one person could do it.
This is where this idea shines. You can come up with questions that are so obscure, only close family or friends would know the answer.
Maybe your sister got her foot stuck in a trash can at Disney Land? The question could be “Where did Beth get her foot stuck on vacation?”
Make sure to be clear on how to piece the answers and don’t be overly complicated. For example, is trash can one or two words – it would be helpful to say which one.
Why This Method Is so Great!
Sure, having a computer pick random words from a predetermined list is fine, but having your password be a word that you would remember is more worth it for the average person.
At the moment, you should not use a diceware password that is less than 5 words long. Some even say to go to 7 or more. It gets to the point where using a diceware word passphrase will be just as hard as using random characters. This is because the word lists are already known and as computers get faster, it gets easier to brute force them.
What is hard to break is pulling from a word list that is every possible word. Not only that but the order you put your random questions in is… well… random. Then you have the option to separate the answers with whatever character or character(s) you want.
Since you’re using a minimum of 4 questions, you get naturally long master passwords – and when it comes to passwords size does matter.
The only downside would be using questions that are easy to guess. Questions like your husbands favorite color, there are only so many colors, and everyone picks blue. Or New Year’s resolutions – everyone wants to lose weight.
This is why it’s important to use questions not many people would pick. Everyone’s family has had those crazy moments like your Aunt got her hair caught on fire or your parents lost you at this or that place. No one in life is so perfect they don’t have some crazy stories that could be used with other questions listed above to make a great master password.
This Is Not Secure Enough!!!
If someone knows your wife’s 3rd favorite movie or how many calories are in your favorite snack or the serial number to your watch I say you have bigger issues to deal with.
These questions are meant to be super personal and very obscure. Combine that with you picking more than 4 of them and using whatever separator you want it makes it hard for some random person on the internet to guess. If someone can guess the answers then you have not picked the right questions.