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Computerized Investing > Third Quarter 2012

Password Strength Across Age Groups

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

These days the news is seemingly filled with stories that make us feel less and less safe. However, a recent study by The New Scientist should make the typical CI reader feel a little bit safer. Researchers examined the passwords of nearly 70 million Yahoo subscribers and found that the over-55 crowd has passwords that are twice as strong as the passwords of those under age 25. And in the useless trivia department, Korean and German speakers had the strongest passwords, while Indonesians had the weakest. (Don’t worry, though, no personal information was at risk. Using a protection technique called hashing, researchers obtained passwords without accessing user accounts.)

The news wasn’t all good, however. The New Scientist study also revealed that the typical password is still less secure than security experts recommend. A randomly chosen six-character password comprising numbers and upper- and lowercase letters should offer 32 bits of security, but the study revealed that the average Yahoo! user password offers less than 10 bits of security. Bits are a measure of password strength, where cracking one bit is equivalent to the chance of correctly calling a fair coin toss, and each additional bit doubles the password’s strength. While passwords with less than 10 bits of security would still require around 1,000 attempts to try every possible password, with today’s hacking technology, this is not out of the realm of possibility.

All this isn’t meant to scare you; consider it a gentle reminder that maybe it’s time for you to update your user passwords if it has been awhile or if they don’t make use of both numbers and uppercase letters. This is especially the case for sensitive accounts such as banks and brokerages.

Online Screening Comparison

With the potential upon us for yet another summer of investing discontent due to a slowing economic recovery, election-year deadlock at home and re-emergence of troubles in Europe, you may not be looking for new equity investment opportunities. For those brave investors, however, this issue contains our updated review of the best fundamental stock screeners. It’s limited to online services only, which is why you won’t find AAII’s Stock Investor Pro fundamental screening and research database program included. In my 15-plus years at AAII, I have come to appreciate the utility these services provide to individual investors. I was pleasantly surprised to discover some noteworthy additions to the screening category and, as a result, there has been a shakeup at the top. The article begins here.

CI Editor Speaking at Local Chapters

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, editor of Computerized Investing and senior financial analyst at AAII, will be giving a presentation on stock screening to the following chapter. Please go to www.aaii.com/chapters closer to the meeting date for more information and to register for this meeting.

Puget Sound Chapter

Saturday, September 22, 2012; 9:00 a.m., Community Center at Mercer View, 8236 S.E. 24th St., Mercer Island, Washington.


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