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Password vs. Passphrase: A Comprehensive Overview | TeamPassword

August 15, 20235 min read

Password Management

Passwords and passphrases are essential in the digital age. With so much of our lives online, we must ensure that our accounts and personal information remain secure. But what is the difference between a password and a passphrase, and which is better? Let’s take a closer look.

A password is a string of characters used to authenticate a user, while a passphrase is a sequence of words or phrases used for the same purpose. A passphrase is usually longer and more complex than a password, making it harder to guess or crack.

What is a Password?

A password is a string of characters, such as letters, numbers, and symbols, used to authenticate a user's identity. When you create an account on a website, you are usually asked to choose a password. You enter this password when you log in to the website to prove that you are who you say you are.

Passwords have been around for a long time and are still widely used today. However, as hackers become more sophisticated, using strong passwords to protect your online accounts is becoming increasingly important.

What is a Passphrase?

A passphrase is similar to a password, but instead of a random string of characters, it is a series of words. For example, "correct-horse-battery-staple". 

The hyphens are important, as they increase the number and type of characters, thus the passphrase's overall security. You can use any symbol to separate the words and increase security. 

Passphrases are becoming more popular as people realize that they are easier to remember than passwords while still being secure. Due to their length, they resist brute-force attacks, where an attacker tries to guess your password by systematically trying every possible combination of characters.

Passphrase vs. Password: Which is Better?

Passphrases are easier to remember and are typically more secure if they use a larger number of characters. However, if the system limits you to less than 20 characters, you'll be more secure with a randomly generated password that includes a healthy mix of numbers and symbols. 

A password is better than a passphrase in some situations, such as:

  • When the system has a strict limit on the number of characters or symbols allowed
  • When the user needs to type the password frequently or quickly
  • When the user has a reliable and secure way to store or remember the password
  • When the password is randomly generated and has high entropy

A passphrase is better than a password in other situations, such as:

  • When the system allows for longer and more complex inputs
  • When the user wants to avoid common password cracking techniques
  • When the user can create a memorable and unique phrase
  • When the passphrase is composed of words from different languages or domains

How to Create a Strong Passphrase

For most people, the weakest link in their security is their password. There are a few strategies to write good passphrases that I recommend. 

Start by choosing a few of your favorite things. For example, I will start with my favorite band, Guided by Voices. I will also use one of my favorite songs from them, like “Echos Myron.” Take some words from each source, and mix them up with some significant numbers for you.

VoicesJMY6ASMyron7988Liberty

This password is constructed of the third word from the name of the band, a license plate number for a car, the second word from the song title, part of a phone number, and a standout term from the song. Since you built this phrase yourself, you should be able to remember it quickly, and you now have a 28-character password! 

Passphrases improve your password security by helping you remember a long string of characters that don't make sense to anyone else. If you build all of your passphrases like this, your passwords will be nearly impossible for another human to guess. 

You can take it further by substituting letters or numbers for symbols. For example, in the password above, you can replace all the ‘i’ characters with the ‘!’ symbol. This will break most of the dictionary words in your password, making it even more impenetrable and easy to remember!

Here are Some Tips to Building a Strong Passphrase 

1.Use a Random Combination of Words

The key to a strong passphrase is randomness. Don't use a common phrase or saying that someone else might guess. Instead, use a combination of random words that have no connection to each other or only have meaning to you. 

2. Use a Long Phrase

The longer your passphrase, the more secure it will be. Aim for at least 20 characters or more.

3. Include Numbers, Symbols, and Capital Letters

While a passphrase comprises words, you can still include numbers, symbols, and capital letters to make it even more secure. For example, you could replace letters with numbers, such as "l3monad3", or include symbols, such as "!n3w_y0rk_C1ty".

4. Don't Reuse Passphrases

Just like passwords, you should never reuse a passphrase across multiple accounts. If one of your accounts is compromised, an attacker could use the same passphrase to access your other accounts.

In summary, passwords and passphrases each have their own use cases. Passwords are still suitable for some situations, but passphrases are a better choice if you need to remember your login details. When creating a passphrase, aim for randomness, length, and complexity, and never reuse the same passphrase across multiple accounts. By following these tips, you can help keep your online accounts secure.

Most people have well over one hundred online accounts. You’ll never remember 100 unique passphrases, so get a password manager. Try us out for free today!

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