Nov 062021
 

Someone asked me about this – a zsh function which I use to generate random passwords :-

✓ mike@pica» rpass noise
oOg6vsM+V0It4he6US4Xk6DuZPja9okyOpQyUCfW6NQ=
✓ mike@pica» rpass words
patternmaker+meio+tubicolous+misbelievingly

It’s too small and simple for me to classify as “open source” but there’s no harm in sharing the function :-

✓ mike@pica» which rpass
rpass () {
	case "$1" in
		("noise") dd if=/dev/random bs=1 count=32 status=none | base64 -i ;;
		("words") punct=("," "." "<" ">" "/" ";" ":" "-" "+" "=") 
			onep=${punct[$(($RANDOM % ${#punct[@]} + 1 ))]} 
			w1=$(shuf -n 1 /usr/share/dict/words | sed -e "s/'.*$//") 
			w2=$(shuf -n 1 /usr/share/dict/words | sed -e "s/'.*$//") 
			w3=$(shuf -n 1 /usr/share/dict/words | sed -e "s/'.*$//") 
			w4=$(shuf -n 1 /usr/share/dict/words | sed -e "s/'.*$//") 
			echo "${w1}${onep}${w2}${onep}${w3}${onep}${w4}" ;;
		("*") echo $1 not understood ;;
	esac
}

This is just a simple zsh function with all sorts of little “issues” – not least is that it could at least say “$1 not understood – try ‘words’ or ‘noise'”.

Apr 062017
 

One of the possibilities when setting a password is to use non-ASCII characters, such as ¨þ¨ (that is a thorn). Well perhaps something a little more secure than just a single character.

But just how sensible is it?

The first thing to bear in mind is that you need to be able to enter the password reliably in all circumstances. A tale from the mists of time: I once set a root password on a Unix machine that included the ¨@¨ character, which normally worked fine but failed on the system console because on that terminal the old Unix tty was still active and ¨@¨ would erase a line, making it impossible to enter the password.

Fortunately I realised what the problem was before it became more than a little annoying.

But the point still remains – if you cannot type a password, you cannot authenticate. So for passwords such as firmware passwords, system encryption passwords, or normal computer account passwords, a password containing Unicode characters is probably a very bad idea.

But for when you have full control over your computer(s), such as for web account passwords, a password containing Unicode characters is worth considering.

So how safe is a password containing a Unicode character anyway? Well, on my usual password cracking machine, john the ripper is unable to crack the password ¨þ¨ in approximately 24 hours. Of course that is a bit of a cheat as john the ripper does not by default check Unicode characters, and if it did it would be able to crack a one character password. But it would take longer; adding Unicode characters increases the space that john the ripper needs to search in order to find your password.

And perhaps more importantly makes it less likely for a password guesser (Hydra for example) to be successful.

So if you normally use a password such as thistlethinthorn, changing it to þistleþinþorn is worth considering. Or indeed changing the separator between words in a multiword password to a Unicode character: thistle☠thin☠thorn, or red¡whistle¡wheel.

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