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Watch Edward Snowden Give John Oliver–And You–A Lesson In Password Security

hen quickly change your password to “MargaretThatcherIs110%Sexy” for Snowden-approved security.

Watch Edward Snowden Give John Oliver–And You–A Lesson In Password Security
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Whether you consider him a hero or a traitor, there’s no question that, on matters of Internet security and how safe our data is, Edward Snowden is an expert. What that means for you, though, is a different question: the guy is stuck in Russia, which makes learning lessons from him a challenge.

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John Oliver sat down with Snowden on Last Week Tonight on Sunday, though, and, in addition to explaining government surveillance through the lens of dick pics, the two got to one of the crucial issues of data security. Talking with Oliver in a segment that didn’t make the Sunday night show, Snowden explained how passwords work, and what separates a good one from a bad one. Short passwords based on real words (including with obvious misspellings or character substitutions) take less than a second for a computer to crack these days, Snowden explains. So, even a password like “limpbiscuit4eva,” he explains to Oliver, isn’t particularly strong–password dictionaries know that people use “4” in place of “for” and “eva” for “ever.”


“The best advice here is to shift your thinking from ‘password’ to ‘passphrase,’” Snowden suggests, to make them too long to brute-force and to contain concepts that are too complex for dictionaries. Oliver blurts out “admiralalonzoghostpenis420YOLO,” which finally gets a nod of admiration from Snowden–a rare feat, indeed.

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About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club

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