The History and Future of Passwords

Having a strong password to your personal data such as bank information, company logins, and other sensitive data is very important. Because of this, the average business user has 191 passwords, but 81% of confirmed data breaches stemmed from reused, weak, or stolen passwords. But looking back on from where we have come from the first password and the first password theft to today can give us a heads-up on what may be coming.

The first password was created in 1960 with MIT’s Compatible Time-Sharing System, or CTSS, used separate consoles to access a shared mainframe – each user had their own files and their own personal point of entry, so a password was necessary. Authentication questions are much stronger than passwords, but passwords require much less memory to store – a compromise that early computers needed to take. Only 2 years after the creation of the computer password, the first password theft happened in 1962. Alan Scheer, a PhD. candidate, was given only 4 hours per week on the CTSS and the simulations he needed to run would take much longer to run than the amount of time he was allotted. By printing the system’s entire password file, he was able to log in another user. As the years went on, computer passwords became more and more complex. Robert Morris, in 1974, created UNIX Hashing – one-way encryption that translated passwords into numbers, didn’t store the actual passwords on the device, and is still used today in mac-OS and the PlayStation 4. In 1979, Robert Morris and Ken Thompson coined the term ‘salt’, referring to adding random characters in a stored password, making large scale leaks or cracking multiple passwords harder, but still doesn’t stop a password from being guessed.

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Brian Wallace

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present.

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