Lesson 3: Passwords

Welcome to Social Networking 101! In this series of lessons, we are going to teach you how to establish your presence in the vast world of social networking. Whether you are just starting out, or if you are a social networking maven, we hope to share some unique methods and tools that can save you time and give you a more visible web presence.

If you missed either of the first two lessons, you might want to go back and read them now.

A Word About Passwords

Now that you have a user name or two, you might think you are all set. But not so fast. Equally important, if not more so, is the password you choose when you sign up on a web site. 

It is tempting to use the same password everywhere, but don't do it. You don't want someone who figures out your password hacking into every site to which you belong. Likewise, do not use any part of your password in your user name. If your user name is pizzaboy2009, you might think it is clever to have your password be "9002yobazzip" but it isn't.

Remember, you are creating a brand for your web presence. Once it is established, it will be fairly easy for people to find you on various sites. So having good password security is an absolute must.

Your password should be easy to remember, yet difficult to figure out. This isn't as hard as it seems. Lifehacker has a great article on how you can create unlimited passwords with one simple rule set. The article gives you several tips for creating great, easy to remember passwords.

Most sites require at least six characters, one of them a number, as part of the password, and I have even run across a few that insist one of the characters be upper case.

Have Mac OS X Create A Password For You

Mac OS X has a great password generator built into it. Here's how to access it:

  1. In the Finder, select Utilities from the Go menu. (The Utilities folder will open in a new window.)

  2. In the window that just opened, locate "Keychain Access" and launch it by double-clicking its icon.

    NOTE: The Mac OS X Keychain stores stuff like passwords for web sites, your wireless networks, and a variety of other things. When Safari auto-fills information for you, some of it comes from your Keychain. Keychain Access lets you view and edit the contents of your keychain. You can also create multiple keychains, and store secure notes right in the keychain application. Since you need a password to access the keychain, it can be a great place to store sensitive information, such as credit card numbers.

  3. Select New Password Item… from the File menu.
  4. Don't worry about the fields in this window for now, just click the icon that looks like a key on the right side of the window. I've reproduced the window below and drawn a circle around it for you:

    Keychain Access

  5. You should see a window that looks like this:

    Password Assistant-1

    You can control the length of the password with the slider, and the Quality meter will tell you how strong that password is. You can select different types of passwords from the Type pulldown menu, or even type in your own passwords to see how strong they are.

  6. Once you have a password you like, simply copy it and paste it somewhere you can find it later. Better yet, write it down so you are not storing your passwords in clear text where someone can find it later.
You can find more information about the Mac OS X Keychain, including its evolution from a discontinued Apple technology called PowerTalk in this Wikipedia article.

Use 1Password

There is a great piece of software called 1Password from Agile Solutions that I strongly recommend. It will do all the dirty work for you by both creating a unique password for each site to which you become a member, and then it will remember those passwords and fill them in for you when you revisit the site.

I use 1Password myself, and can't recommend it enough. Macworld recently did a video podcast about it, which serves as an excellent intro to its many features and benefits:

Password No-Nos

  • There are some things you DON'T want to do when creating a password. 

  • DON'T use personal information, such as names, birthdays, addresses, and telephone numbers.

  • DON'T use passwords considered to be "defaults" like "admin" or "root" (or - do I even have to say it - "password"). You can find a list of "default" passwords used for various devices here.

  • DON'T use all number passwords, and when you use numbers, don't use them in sequence or duplicate more than two at a time ("1234," "666," "0000", etc.)

Another Great Password Idea

I found this one on LifeHacker.com. It is a great idea, but one you might not want to use around a lot of people. When you need a new password, look for some electronic device you always have with you, such as your cell phone or computer. You should be able to find several unique numbers on that device. These would include a model number, serial number, FCC ID, and/or a MAC address (Media Access Control address, not related to Macintosh computers). If you can remember which one you used for what purpose they make great passwords: they are always with you, and are almost always over 6 characters.


  • No matter how you ultimately decide to create your passwords, here are three simple rules to remember:

    • Make it at least six characters
    • Use at least one number
    • Make at least one character UPPER CASE.
  • Create strong passwords using Mac OS X Keychain Access or 1Password
  • Try to create passwords that are easy for you remember, but hard for others to figure out.
  • Don't use "default" passwords
  • Get 1Password

Assignment: Decide on a method for creating passwords (use one of the tips in the LifeHacker article, use Mac OS X Keychain Access or 1Password) and use that method the next time you need to create a password.

Extra Credit: Go to any web sites for which you already have a password and change the password using your chosen method.

Next Lesson: Photos and Avatars

©2009 Chuck Rogers Consulting