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Weeding out risky passwords.

Most computer user have at one time or another gone through the ritual of choosing a password to identify themselves as legitimate users of a computer system. But to the horror of security experts, many individuals choose "weak" passwords that are often embarrasingly easy to guess, making even the best-managed computer systems vulnerable to attack. One way to prevent users from selecting such passwords requires comparing a user's choice with a list of unacceptable words or sequences of characters. But even a modestly sized dictionary of prohibited password choices takes up a lot of memory in a computer.

The answer, says computer scientist Eugene H. Spafford of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., is to store the prohibited words in a form that occupies much less computer memory than a conventional dictionary. His OPUS project (Obvious Password Utility System) represents an ingennious attempt to develop an effective mechanism for converting words into compact sequences of bits so that checking a password against the dictionary takes roughly the same amount of time no matter how many words make up the dictionary.
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Title Annotation:computer access
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 16, 1991
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