June 07, 2012, 8:00 PM —
Security breaches of mind-numbing size like those at LinkedIn and EHarmony.com set crypto- and security geeks to chattering about weak passwords and lazy users and the importance of non-alphanumeric characters to security.
And insisting on a particular number of characters in a password is just pointless security-fetish control freakishness, right?
Nope. The number and type of characters make a big difference.
How big? Adding a symbol eliminates the possibility of a straight dictionary attack (using, literally, words from a dictionary. Adding a symbol, especially an unusual one, makes it much harder to crack even using rainbow tables (collections of alphanumeric combinations, only some of which include symbols).
How big a difference to length and character make?
Look below and pick which password-cracking jobs you'd want to take on if you were a computer. The examples come from the Interactive Brute Force Password Search Space Calculator: at GRC.com, the love child of from former InfoWorld columnist and freeware contributor Steve Gibson