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Child-Suitable Alternatives To Passwords?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-must-remember-this dept.

Security 895

An anonymous reader writes "Two months ago I donated my old PC to my little sister, who is 7 — I had promised she would get her own computer as soon as she can read and write properly. I then proceeded to answer her questions about how it works, as far as she inquired, and tried to let her make some choices when installing Debian (she can already use GNOME). As I explained password protection and encryption to her, I was pleasantly surprised when she insisted on protection measures being as strong as possible, so that no one else can screw with her computer. She knows that my younger brother has to endure strict parental control software that was installed on his machine without his consent. The significant problem is that she cannot permanently memorize abstract passwords, even if they are her own creation. I talked with a teacher who assured me that this is common at her age. My parents would probably be able to guess non-abstract passwords. What mechanism of identifying herself does the Slashdot crowd suggest?"

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Pictures (4, Interesting)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516116)

I guess picking the right pictures in a list in the proper order would be a good idea....I think I saw something like that posted on slashdot in the last year.

Re:Pictures (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516280)

In a way, that's pretty much the same as a password, except using pictures instead of letters.

I do question, though, what 'strict parental control' works under debian--and whether the parents will allow the computer to be used at all, or whether they'll just install windows and the parental control.

I think it may be adviseable to discuss with the parents why the parental control software was necessary for the other child, and whether this child would be required to have special conditions for the use of said computer.

Re:Pictures (3, Funny)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516510)

This is to keep the parents out of the computer, not the other way around.

Re:Pictures (5, Insightful)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516568)

Yes, and I'm questioning two aspects of that:

Why the parents need to be kept out, and why the AC thinks that any password will keep out parents who presumably have physical access to the system.

If the parents are taking an interest in keeping young children safe, then by all means let 'em.

Fingerprint Reader? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516118)

Would a fingerprint reader be suitable?

Re:Fingerprint Reader? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516440)

it would work fine, as long as her parents have a root password. I say that having kids.

passphrase (4, Informative)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516120)

Teach her to use passphrases, something like 'My favorite food is steak'. This is something that's easy for her to remember and also hard to break just from the sheer size of the password. When she's old enough, she'll figure out how to make hard passwords on her own; just give her a few suggestions about capitalization, numbers and symbols.

To Deal With Size Limitations (Variant on Phrase) (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516268)

Naturally as humans, we are very capable of memorizing lyrics, poems, quotes & the like from our favorite media. I've suggested this before and I'll suggest it again. Pick something that your little sister loves, like pokemon, Harry Pothead, Celine Dion or whatever the devil kids are watching/reading/listening to these days. And simply have her pick the most memorable quote or verse from that thing. Then you simply strip down to the first letters of each word (punctuation and capitalization included) and you have something that is easily memorized but fairly random.

For instance, in high school I listened to Tomorrow Never Knows off of the Revolver record by The Beatles nonstop. Since I know every lyric [] of that song, I might pick the opening line:

Turn off your mind, relax and flow downstream
Which would render the password:

Not a bad password, in my opinion. You could do the same with the opening line of a book, quote from a movie, TV show or even a line from a poem. All of these things are very memorable and produce hard to break passwords.

Re:To Deal With Size Limitations (Variant on Phras (3, Funny)

DamienRBlack (1165691) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516516)

Thanks for your password, I've taken the liberty of moving all the money for your bank accounts to mine.

biometrics (1)

xzvf (924443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516328)

A pass phrase is still too hard for adults and a lot of typing for someone that probably isn't a touch typist. How about buying a usb fingerprint reader? I was thinking smartcard but that'll be too easy to lose.

Re:biometrics (1)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516570)

My son is 6, and he'd memorized his User ID and password for Club Penguin when he was 5. It shouldn't be that difficult, but I guess is this girl has more than one password going at a time, it could all get jumbled.

Re:passphrase (2, Insightful)

RDW (41497) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516436)

How about:





Why on earth does a kid of this age need a secure password?

Re:passphrase (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516578)

Meh, she maybe doesn't need the password to be secure from her parents, but it's good to teach everyone good security principles even at a young age. The more people that learn decent security now, the better the future will be for everyone. Teaching her how to create good passwords will stop others from being able to gain easy access to her email, myspace, forums, whatever, which will all help to keep her safer. That's just one element of safety and security, but half the people at work here would rather just tell you their password than come over and type it in (yeah I'm part of IT, but I still tell people that I don't need or want to know their password)

Try a phrase (1)

stevenbdjr (539653) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516124)

Why not try a phrase or rhyme from one of her favorite books that she can memorize (or perhaps already has). Who says passwords need to be single words - In this day and age longer passwords with spaces are supported on every operating system I've encountered.

Re:Try a phrase (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516324)

Absolutely - get her to pick a line from a nursery rhyme, and use the first letter of each word. "ttlshiwwya" is an obvious example of this idea, a little too obvious maybe but is shows the idea.

Re:Try a phrase (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516408)

Why not just use the entire rhyme? punctuation and all? Its not like we're limited to short passwords anymore and it would be even less likely to be brute forced.

Fingerprint? (2, Insightful)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516126)

A fingerprint seems like a reasonable idea. If she's just trying to keep other family members off of it, rubber-hose cryptanalysis is unlikely to become a problem, and she's highly unlikely to forget her fingers anywhere.

Re:Fingerprint? (5, Funny)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516188)

A fingerprint seems like a reasonable idea. If she's just trying to keep other family members off of it, rubber-hose cryptanalysis is unlikely to become a problem

You were an only child, right?

Re:Fingerprint? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516292)

If she's just trying to keep other family members off of it, rubber-hose cryptanalysis is unlikely to become a problem

I disagree. It would be child's play to convince a 7 year old child to put her finger on the reader, especially when coaxed by a parent. An older sibling would likely use physical force. Norman Rockwell is dead, my friend.

Association game. (1) (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516132)

Why not have her make the password something like "her two favorite toys, plus her age?" Admittedly, this might not be the strongest password in the world, but at least it reinforces the concept. I guess you could always go with something like fingerprint authentication or some other gadget, but in my opinion that's teaching her to trust yet another device in between her and the OS. Not the best habit to get into...

Re:Association game. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516528)

Why not have her make the password something like "her two favorite toys, plus her age?"

Her favourite toys are bound to change somewhat frequently, and her age will definitely change every year.

Shape (4, Insightful)

Ami Ganguli (921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516142)

Have her make a pattern on the keyboard that she can remember. I've actually had a number of PIN codes that I didn't actually remember apart from the pattern they make on the numeric keypad.

Re:Shape (1)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516192)

I'm sure some dictionary files contain those patterns - probably not a problem for a 7years old trying to avoid her parents touching her PC, but something to think about anyways..

Re:Shape (1)

Ami Ganguli (921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516488)

True enough, but... patterns can be pretty arbitrary, and also potentially quite long. Like: "qwer asdf zxcv fjfrmvu". Clearly not random, but still chosen from a very large space of similar patterns.

My PINs were given to me by the bank, so they weren't chosen for the pattern, but rather the pattern is what I ended up remembering, so not an issue there.

Use a sentence (1)

zeoslap (190553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516144)

Use the first few words from a favorite book of hers. Then all she has to do is look in the book if she forgets.

Beat it into her (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516152)

Well, it's either that or recognise that she's a seven year-old and doesn't need strong encryption no matter how much of a nerd her big brother is. No, beating it into her is far more reasonable.

I got it (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516154)

Tell her to make the password the first name of the boy she likes with her birthday after it. She would never tell someone who she likes:-)

Re:I got it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516246)

I find your encouragement of child sex appalling, sir!

Re:I got it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516376)

Yeah, and this would last for all of a day, due to the mercurial nature of children's likes and dislikes.

7? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516158)

Your sister is learning to read & write properly at SEVEN?

What a dumbass!

Strange quote... (4, Interesting)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516160)

My parents would probably be able to guess non-abstract passwords.
I find this interesting. Is the goal to set up a machine for a 7-year-old that parents cannot access? If so, I personally think this is silly. I do admit I RTFS very quickly and perhaps missed something.

Re:Strange quote... (4, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516224)

My parents would probably be able to guess non-abstract passwords.
And exactly why is this a problem? If your parents are totally and completely incompetent, go to child protective services now, for you have more important issues than passwords.
Otherwise, quit undermining your parents and let them raise your sister. You can contribute if you want by teaching her about computers, but do it in assistance to your parents, not in opposition.

Re:Strange quote... (1, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516564)

No, better the sister learns this lesson early:

Trust is different than trustworthiness. Trustworthiness is a quality, and trust is an action.

Trusting someone always makes you less secure, no matter how trustworthy they are. It is certainly better to trust someone who is trustworthy, but it is still a decrease in security.

Re:Strange quote... (4, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516566)

This can be solved by giving the parents the root password and letting the girl keep a secret password. That makes it so that she gets the feeling of privacy and, for the most part, the reality of privacy while still allowing the parents to do and see whatever they want on the computer.

Re:Strange quote... (5, Insightful)

Imagix (695350) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516264)

I noticed the same thing. Also the quote how the brother had to "endure" parental control software. We're talking about a 7-year old. There should be parental supervision, education, and monitoring.

Re:Strange quote... (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516580)

There should be parental supervision, education, and monitoring.


Re:Strange quote... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516304)

Don;t be so rough on the poster. I know when I was 7, I would have hated for my parents to find my porn collection.

Re:Strange quote... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516396)

Well, to be fair, at 7 it was all child porn.

Re:Strange quote... (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516322)

I agree. At that age, her dealings with computers (particularly computers with Internet access) should be closely monitored by her parents. She should set up a password and be instructed not to tell other people what it is in order to get her into the habit of good security practices, but her parents should nevertheless know the password (or some other way to access the computer).

Of course, my son is 8 and he's only allowed to use the computer in the living room, and we can easily see what he's doing on it at all times. Kids are already going to obsess about keeping things from their parents when they're teenagers, there's no reason to start building that barrier when they're only 7.

Re:Strange quote... (1)

Azghoul (25786) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516548)

Er... WhyTF do you need to know the kid's password? Aren't you root on the machine? If not, why not?

Re:Strange quote... (5, Insightful)

syphaxplh (896757) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516576)

Thank you to all who have pointed out that perhaps locking the parents out is not a sensible goal. While I think it is good for a child this age to understand the concepts of security and privacy, I don't think that it is reasonable for a minor to expect her own little private computing world, free of parental control. There should be some semblance of openness and trust in a healthy household, particularly between parents and their children.

Re:Strange quote... (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516380)

And irrelevant when talking about Linux. Breaking into a *nix machine is trivial if you have physical access; trying to keep out anyone who can use google is almost impossible without an encrypted file system or a physical barrier.

RFID Implant (0, Offtopic)

fpgaprogrammer (1086859) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516164)

apparently the latest fad is to inject your kid with an RFID at birth.

None (4, Insightful)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516168)

Why on earth should a 7 year old be able maintain privacy on a computer that can serve as a portal to many nasty things?

Passphrase (1)

Quato (132194) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516170)

How about a passphrase like '2beornot2be' I know they have less entropy than other methods, but I've always found this to be easy to remember.

Re:Passphrase (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516236)

My parents used the same password for "SurfWatch", which they installed when I was 10. I figured it out on my 14th try (I looked through the manual and that was the suggested parents actually decided to use it.) To this day they don't know that I knew what it was:-)

Re:Passphrase (4, Funny)

jdoff (95905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516442)

You are so grounded!


Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516172)

I suggest that you make her first name her password and stop subjecting seven year olds to this type of geeky navel gazing rubbish! You've gone beyond dork and are now foisting your dorkdom upon others. Cease and desist!

at age 7 (4, Insightful)

Tsiangkun (746511) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516178)

I would suggest the parents have the root password, and their child can ask them to reset her password when she forgets.

Parents guessing the password of a seven year old is ridiculous, is this a serious question ?

Re:at age 7 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516300)

Right on. I was surprised I didn't see something like this posted earlier.

I don't see any reasonable expectation of privacy for a 7 year old using a computer. With all there is child predators and whatnot. Why not just leave a rope ladder hanging from a window, and invite bad people over.

Re:at age 7 (1)

jesseck (942036) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516306)

I agree, my 5-year-old uses a simple password. The root password requires me to make changes, not my son. His simple password is nothing more than teaching him and his sister to use a password. It could be broken real fast. But what do you expect out of a 5-year-old, no matter how smart they are?

Re:at age 7 (1)

YourMotherCalled (888364) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516308)

Well, he also said, "She knows that my younger brother has to endure strict parental control software that was installed on his machine without his consent." Notice the strange part about "without his consent". I don't know how old his younger brother is but parents can and SHOULD do things without their child's consent.

So, yes, it is a serious question.

Re:at age 7 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516478)

MOM! Shut up, I'm playing Halo god damnit! MOM!!!! GET ME SOME GOD DAMN CHOCOLATE MILK! You promised!!!!! MOMMMMMM!!!! I'm in a clan match, I can't get it myself!

Re:at age 7 (1)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516374)

Agreed. This is absurd. What's next -- will she demand a lock on her bedroom door that her parents cannot have keys for?

You have no right to privacy from your parents while you live under their roof, eat their food, and depend on their money. Privacy, if you have it, is a privilege. Get over it. Especially at age 7.

Mnemonics? (1)

Bovius (1243040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516184)

If she can remember a catchy phrase and she can spell, I bet she can come up with a sufficiently obscure password.

Un-monitored access for a 7yo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516198)

I don't think so...

The parents should have access and use that access.

Unless you want to have the finger pointed at you when something not-very-nice happens from her unrestricted and unmonitored access.

No 7yo is able to be responsible for there own safety and well being.

Draw shapes (1)

cowwoc2001 (976892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516200)

Either "draw" a share on the keyboard and the letters you hit make up that shape or put together some program which takes some combination of shapes and colors to come up with a password. For example:

Types of objects: Car, Box, Plane
Colors: [display 5 of them]

Pick the right combination as your password, etc.

password: LetParentsIn (1)

PinkPanther (42194) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516206)

Why, oh why, should a 7 year old have an account that her parents can't (and don't) have direct, constant and consistent access to?

This is not flamebait. I'm really quite concerned that someone believes that a 7 year old should be keeping information from their parents. I don't think a 12 year old should be either, but that's another story.

Her first name... (1)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516212)

Because 7 is way, way too young to lock the parents out of the computer. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for personal privacy. Maybe if the computer wasn't internet connected, it'd be better, but at her age she needs supervision, and never to be on the internet alone. Erik

shapes are key (1)

Tainek (912325) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516216)

a shape is a great way, for example

p0o9i8u - it looks random, but if you type it out, its a zig zag from p-u (And help her remember, its Pu!)

all sorts of shapes can be used, zig zags are best but a circle can be good too- and you can always hold shift for the first/last two letters for capitals etc)

password (1)

Jawshie (919956) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516222)

I think a combination of name and birthdate might be suitable. While it would be possible for the parents to know it (obviously this is good), her brother may not. For instance, if her name is Brittany with a birthday of April 23rd, you can do a password of: b0r4i3t0t

Re:password (1)

Missing_dc (1074809) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516494)

Good luck guessing that one if she forgets it, by my estimation, it should be b0r4i2t3t nor b0r4i3t0t

Standards too low (0, Flamebait)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516230)

Just tell the child to memorize a password already. Anyone capable of using a computer ought to be able to remember a password or two, and indulging anything less is just catering to intellectual sloppiness. I'm sorry to be harsh, but when we make things increasingly easy for kids, we end up increasingly incapable adults.

You have go to be kidding (1)

Xocet_00 (635069) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516594)

Children don't develop certain reasoning and memorization skills until certain ages, not because they're stupid, but because their brains haven't physically developed to the point where it's possible for them to do it. While the age where a child abruptly develops various cognitive skills varies from child to child, an average kid below the age of 12 or so possesses almost no abstract reasoning skills whatsoever.

"School-age children are limited to thinking concretely--in tangible, definite, exact, and uni-directional terms--based on real and concrete experiences rather than on abstractions." Source [] (yeah, yeah, Cliff's notes, but this is Psych 101 stuff.)

You can't tell a seven year to "suck it up" and perform a task her brain simply can't yet handle. It's completely ridiculous.

Why keep her parents off exactly ? (5, Insightful)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516234)

Seriously, she's 7?!

I have two daughters around the same age. They share a computer that we gave them for xmas. They have their own accounts, with their own passwords and my wife and I maintain the Administrator account. I could not fathom them having an Internet-accessible computer without us having full control over it.

Am I missing the point ? Because when I read:

"My parents would probably be able to guess non-abstract passwords"

it sounds to me like you're trying to keep a 7 year-old's parents off of a computer she uses when they have every right (and reason / responsibility in this day in age) to know what their young child is doing on a computer.

Of course I am all for teaching kids how to be security conscious and protect their private data. But it's a fine balance. Parents need to keep themselves in the loop in order to, you know, be effective parents.

Sneakers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516242)

My voice is my passport. Verify me.

Use a USB key (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516256)

Create a random key file on a USB key and set up linux to use the key file as the decryption key for the hard drive. That way, she won't have to remember a password.

Mneunomics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516258)

Pick a funny sentence, such as "my dad has really stinky feet", and have her use the first letter of each word (in this case, mdhrsf). The result is an funny & unforgettable, yet unguessable, password. :)

Re:Mneunomics (1)

Lingerance (1117761) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516458)

> Pick a funny sentence, such as "my dad has really stinky feet", and have her use the first letter of each word (in this case, mdhrsf). The result is an funny & unforgettable, yet unguessable, password. :)
Or better yet just use: "my dad has really stinky feet".

Use a book (3, Insightful)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516260)

Have her take a favorite book, start at a random page (or first page if she only needs to keep family members off.) Read the first letter of each page for 10 pages.

On a different topic, you said one thing that shocked me:

She knows that my younger brother has to endure strict parental control software that was installed on his machine without his consent.

She's 7. I don't know how old your younger brother is, but at some age, it is a reasonable thing for a parent to do. It cannot suppliment for parenting, but it can be handy to insist on a website whitelist, or 2-hour cutoff.

Seven-year-olds shouldn't have the full rights of adults.

smart card (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516262)

go on u know u want an excuse to buy the hardware

Why are you trying to undermine your parents? (4, Insightful)

fredrated (639554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516266)

With phrases like "She knows that my younger brother has to endure strict parental control software that was installed on his machine without his consent" and "My parents would probably be able to guess non-abstract passwords" you are clearly trying to undermine your parents. I know that children, though you don't give your age, usually think that they know better than their parents, but guess what: it isn't usually true! I hope that your parents are smart enough to take your sisters computer away if you succeed in locking them out.

Parents serve some purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516270)

You are going to set up a young impressionable 7 year old girl with a computer that her parents can't look in on, and law enforcement can't get into? Will it have internet access? More importantly, can her Debian distro run AIM? What is her screen name? Is she available for cookies and ice cream on Tuesday? I'll pick her up at the park when she is supposed to be at school, it will be a secret! So much fun! And I have puppies and candy, too!

I think you mean well but perhaps haven't considered all the ramifications of what you are trying to do.

Why not a gpg key? (1)

FrozenFOXX (1048276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516274)

I am not an expert, mind you, but I would suggest an encryption key, possibly passwordless for now.

Why? Well, you could modify PAM to check for the key instead of a conventional login I believe and then give her something like a USB thumb drive to store the key on. Just have it read from the UUID of the thumb drive so only that one could be used, drop her key on it, and whenever she wants to get in she just has to plug it in. Not such a bad idea though it would still require a little bit of research into modifying PAM behavior.

You could also check out thumbprint scanning if the laptop has one built-in or you do not mind getting one for her to use. Just a few ideas to get you rolling.

Single? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516282)

1) Female
2) Young
3) Computer Geek

Is she single?

YUO FAIL IT (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516284)

our chances Users With Large Every day...Like of open-source. this exploitation, believe their Out of businees RAYMOND IN HIS To work I'm doing, counterpart,

Dysfunctional Family Favourites (1, Insightful)

igb (28052) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516294)

So sibling 1 is providing a computer to sibling 3 that is secured against their common parents, because they don't like what the parents have done to sibling 2's computer? And sibling 3 is seven years old? My, I bet they have fun when they sit down for dinner together.

The idea that it is reasonable to provide for a seven year old a computer to which no responsible adult has access is simply insane. If my nine year old floated that idea to me the MAC address would be barred on the home router in about two seconds, and all access offsite would be transparently proxied into squid as soon as I brought the appropriate instance on air. Anyone who permits a child that young to have unfettered access to the Internet should be sterilised, and anyone who aids and abets them should be treated equally harshly.

CowboyNeal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516296)

password: CowboyNeal

who would ever be able to guess that one for a 7 year old?

a 7 year old!?!?! he should be able to use a pwd (1)

netsavior (627338) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516334)

My friends taught their son to type by setting a password on his computer at about age 4. He would ask them what the password was and they would say "mom" or whatever and sometimes he would ask how to spell it, and sometimes not. By the age of 7 he was picking his own passwords.

Private key on a USB stick (2, Informative)

jjon (555854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516336)

That way she has a token that she can easily carry with her (or hide in her room) that will identify her. Bonus points for using a USB key that is brightly coloured or is otherwise aesthetically child-friendly.

Alternatively, consider fingerprints - this may actually have quite poor security, but in this case it's probably good enough. And the privacy issues don't apply in this case (she _wants_ the security and her fingerprint will only be stored on her own PC). The other known problem is that some people don't have usable prints, but this is something you can check.

Use a passphrase... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516340), "My parents are responsible for me." Or, "I live under their roof, so I play by their rules." Or, "My brother is an asshat."

And yes, I'm a parent.

A pass phrase can be secure without being abstract (1)

mashuren (886791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516350)

Just set it to something like himynameisjenniferim7howareyou. A sentence simple enough for a child to remember yet complex enough to make it impossible to guess (and nearly impossible to brute-force.)

Of course, I have to question the ethics of locking out a child's computer from her own parents. I can't see any legitimate reason for doing so.

Quick fix (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516366)

The quick fix is to use a defined password (e.g. "Hunter") and have the child change it in a predictable way (e.g. add a 2 at the end.) It's not secure as a random alphanumeric, but it is good enough to prevent casual password guessing. If you want, you could even log unauthorized access attempts as well so that attempts to guess the password get picked up. This is the same method I used to create one of my earlier passwords, and so far, nobody has guessed it (but certain sites don't like it since it didn't contain a number, capital letter, or non-alphanumeric.)

What? (1)

Sanat (702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516382)

I believe that it is appropriate for the parents to have parental control and supervision of what a 7 year old is browsing and participating when online. this is true whether the child is male or female.

It is as if you are projecting your issues upon your little sister.

Please look within your heart to see how locking out parents physically or emotionally in the long run is inappropriate and will only create angst.

Besides they will simply install windows (or have it installed for them) so they have the parental control back.

Your aim seems to be missing the mark.

The C64 Passphrase (1)

ToxikFetus (925966) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516388)

How about: LOAD "*" ,8,1

That's all I knew to type on my C64 when I was 5 and wanted to play games.

The real question (2)

WatersOfOblivion (1215490) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516390)

I think that this case might be a little silly because the parents should have root/Administrator access and the child should have a user account, but there is a real question here: how can someone who isn't able remember a password identify themselves to a computer? For example, in a situation where all of the students at an elementary school have individual accounts. First graders cannot be expected to remember a password, but they do have an expectation of privacy. Or maybe the case of someone who has had a traumatic brain injury and suffers from severe memory loss. Despite the framing, the core question I think still stands.

how irresponsible (2, Interesting)

tfiedler (732589) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516392)

So basically you want to subvert the ability of your parents' to exert their moral and legal responsibility to raise their daughter by allowing a 7 year old child, one who is not capable of something so requisite as remembering a significantly complex password? Your little sister has no business having unfettered access and control over her computer, and consequently, her online experience. You are irresponsible, probably due to considerably immaturity, and should refrain from interferring with your parents' raising their daughter.

this is the same crowd (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516402)

that argues for parental responsibility being the proper way to deal with internet issues and children, rather than an intrusive nanny state

and i agree with that sentiment

but here we have the suggestion that a 7 year old have an abstract password her parents can't guess

uh huh. the opinions of teenaged boys are apparently very worldly and experienced

work through the logical inconsistency, then update your opinion on a 7 year old's right to privacy from her parents

hahah (1)

HellProphet (1045990) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516406)

you all lose no Score:5 comments rofl

out of curiosity... (2, Interesting)

Harin_Teb (1005123) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516410)

What parental control software IS there for Debian?

one of the main reasons I haven't switched to Linux is the (at least percieved) lack of parental control software...

Easy, use a pattern (3, Interesting)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516416)

I would say the majority of non-computer users have trouble remembering really strong passwords (ones that make use of a mixture of letters and numbers and punctuation marks). I find the solution is to rely on muscle memory.

Pick a column on the keyboard and press every key along that line. For example 4rfv. Now hold down the shift key and repeat it. $RFV. So the password is 4rfv$RFV which is relatively strong for most uses but is a snap and simple to remember.

The only caveat is that it's not a password that you can type while someone is watching but then...really nobody should be watching when you type any password. Although, pressing the shift key can be pretty subtle.

Other patterns like squares or crosses work as well.

- JoeShmoe

Keyboard patterns (2, Insightful)

kieran (20691) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516418)

Something like 3ed4rf5tg (try typing it) or sxdcfvgb should do the trick. Starting with the first letter of her name might help.

Call me old fashioned... (1)

BaronHethorSamedi (970820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516420)

...but why on earth would you want to secure a computer used by a 7-year-old girl against parental scrutiny?

Her brother has to "endure" parental conrol software, which seems reasonable to me. If I had a 7-year-old daughter who secured her computer in such a way as to prevent me from knowing what she was doing with it, I'd take the computer away until she agreed to let me supervise.

Privacy is a great thing in most circumstances, but it's not an absolute good. The world is full of terrible things that a kid that age knows nothing about.

fingerprint reader (1)

tokul (682258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516434)

If it works on Linux and evil little brother does not unplug it.

lots of solutions (1)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516448)

There are lots of choices:

-- get a computer with a fingerprint reader

-- get face recognition authentication (not very secure but good enough)

-- put the home directory on a USB flash drive

-- put the login key on a USB flash drive and use a modified PAM

-- get a wireless screen lock/unlock fob (special purpose or bluetooth based)

-- get a motherboard or drive with a removable hardware disk encryption key

-- use a smartcard reader and smartcard authentication

Phone nubmers and Addresses (1)

bizitch (546406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516456)

I for one wanted my kids (3) to all remember important information - in cases of emergency or if they got lost etc...

I set their passwords to our home phone, cell phone or home address

Even really young kids can learn to remember those - every time they wanted to use the computer, they would practice that very important information

It didn't take any huge amount of effort for them to remember those 10 digit numbers

Two problems solved with one solution

her computer was secured, but... (1)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516490)

...she never realized that they monitored her internet usage at the proxy server?

(naturally they would of blocked certain protocols...)

The Address Code? (1)

Kuukai (865890) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516552)

I'm pretty sure that when I was seven I knew my address and a couple others. If you don't know you're looking for one, addresses have all the key elements of a decently strong password: numbers and letters with a capital. I'm sure in this case it would be more than secure enough. It doesn't need to be a real address, though it could be, I just think that learning it as one would probably help.

RFID! Embedded! In Her skull! (2, Funny)

rueger (210566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516584)

Holy mother of God - what, besides WebKinz [] do you think your daughter is likely to be up to? And if your Linux box won't run that and Bild-a-Bear [] properly then she won't like it anyhow.

She's seven years old! Let her pick a password that's easy for her to recall. The important thing is that she's accustomed to passwords etc, not that she understands cryptographic science.
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