Who Invented Computer Passwords? (And the Guy That Made Them Suck) | Summary and Q&A

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June 29, 2018
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Today I Found Out
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Who Invented Computer Passwords? (And the Guy That Made Them Suck)

TL;DR

Passwords have been used for centuries, but they have always posed security risks. Most users create weak passwords that are easily hacked, despite changing recommendations by security experts.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the earliest known use of a password-like system?

The Book of Judges in the Bible mentions the use of a password-like phrase to identify members of a certain tribe in the 6th or 7th century BC.

Q: Who is credited with implementing the first password system on an electronic computer?

Fernando Corbato, a retired professor of computer science at MIT, is credited with implementing the first password system on the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) in 1961.

Q: Why were passwords stored in plain text in the early computer systems?

The early computer systems did not have advanced encryption capabilities, so storing passwords in plain text was the simplest and most straightforward solution at the time.

Q: What were some of the flaws in the early password systems?

One major flaw was the printing of password files, which allowed unauthorized access. Another flaw was the use of weak passwords, leading to unauthorized access and misuse of accounts.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Passwords have been used since ancient times, such as the use of passphrases by Roman legionaries to identify friends or foes.

  • In modern times, the first electronic computer password system was implemented in 1961, but it had security flaws, including storing passwords in plain text.

  • The recommendations for creating passwords, such as using special characters and changing them regularly, have been found to be ineffective and burdensome for users.

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