The Sunday Magazine

How to create unique passwords you won't have to memorize

Listener Dana-Marie Battaglia has invented a method for generating unique, strong passwords, without having to memorize them. She walks Michael through “the Dana key.”
“Every time I have to change my password for various devices, I feel like Columbus setting out on a dark and perilous journey. Usually I take great care to write down the password. In a notebook. I then forget where I put the notebook.” Michael Enright, The Sunday Edition, March 11, 2018 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Dana-Marie Battaglia, who lives in Vancouver, heard Michael's essay on the program of March 11, 2018, about the trouble he has with remembering passwords.

The Sunday Edition — Michael's essay: In search of the lost password

Dana-Marie is a freelance web designer, and over the years, she too has struggled with trying to remember dozens of passwords. She came up with a method - she calls it "The Dana Key",  She sent us a note about it, and we asked her to explain it to Michael on the radio - which she did. It's a little tricky to absorb it all at once, so we thought we would include her instructions here, in case you'd like to try it for yourself.

Over to Dana!

Dana-Marie's Password Method
With my method, you can create a different password for every website you ever go to, and you'll always know what the password is without having to memorize it or write it down!

The trick is to combine one simple 3-letter password, with letters from the current website's address/URL. You will always know which letters of the URL you added to your password, because you will always follow a particular sequence of rules.

Before you start creating your own passwords using "The Dana Key", I strongly recommend you read the important tips I've provided on my website here.  There, you'll also find handy tips on how to adjust your Password Sequence to respond to various URL idiosyncrasies and maximize your success with my method.

(Update - March 18, 2018: Please note that we have removed the word "secure" from this post. Neither Dana-Marie nor the CBC can guarantee that this password method would be 100% secure. Please exercise caution and good judgment when creating passwords!)

Anatomy of Dana-Marie's Password Method
All of your passwords will consist of three parts: 

1 - Your Master Password Key 
What I have so far referred to as your "one simple password" will now be known as your Master Password Key.  
In order to be sure your passwords are compatible with 99% of websites, you must choose:
  - Three letters (with at least one letter uppercase)
  - One number (a single digit is fine)
  - One special character (@, &, !, #, ?, etc.)

2 - Letters from specific positions within the URL
Choose letters from specific positions within the URL (the first letter, the second letter, etc)
Only reference the letters in between the www. and the .com (or .anything)

3- Your own personal Password Sequence
Your Password Sequence is the order in which you combine/intertwine the specific letters from the URL with your Master Password Key. Make every password for every website using this same Password Sequence.

If you're confused, don't worry! This method is best explained by example.

An Example of Dana-Marie's Password Method
Here is what Michael Enright chose for his Master Password Key, number and special character:

Three letters (with at least one uppercase letter): caT
One number: 1963 
(It really only needed to be one digit, but  Michael joked that this is the year he won the Nobel Prize so I didn't object!).
One special character: ?

Here is the simple Password Sequence that I took the liberty of making for him:
1.     The first letter of the URL
2.     All 3 letters of the password with the last letter uppercase
3.     The last two letters of the URL
4.     The chosen number
5.     The chosen special character

Michael orders books online, so in our example, we pretended we were creating a password for

Here is how we created his password:

First letter of the URL, amazon: a
All 3 letters of the Master Password Key, with the last letter uppercase: caT
a caT
Last two letters of the URL amazon: on
a caT on
Michael's chosen number: 1963
a caT on 1963
Michael's special character: ?
a caT on 1963 ?
His new Amazon password is: acaTon1963?

Practise makes purrrfect!  Let's do another one!

This time we'll make a password for

First letter of the URL cbcmusic: c
All 3 letters of the password with the last letter uppercase: caT
c caT
Last two letters of the URL cbcmusic: ic
c caT ic
The chosen number: 1963
c caT ic 1963
The chosen special character: ?
c caT ic 1963 ?
Our Password is: ccaTic1963?

As you can see, our passwords for and are different.  By memorizing our single Master Password Key, and the Password Sequence that we utilize to put it all together, the next time we go to login at either of those websites, we will be able to figure out what our password is, even though we didn't memorize it or write it down.

Like any new thing you learn, it can take a bit of practise before you really get comfortable with your Password Sequence.  For some people, it happens very quickly and naturally.  Others may feel some resistance as they break old habits.  Inevitably, with frequent use, I promise it will become second nature to you.

I hope you find this as exciting as I do.  I hope my method will be useful to you for many years to come.  And, I hope I have in fact, "changed your life".  Best of luck to you!

Dana-Marie Battaglia
Freelance Web Services Provider

Don't Do It Yourself Websites​
Dana-Marie Battaglia is a freelance web developer in Vancouver. She is also a singer/songwriter.