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Monday, November 12, 2018

Digital battle: Time to localize your password by Uwaje - ITREALMS

The next digital battle resides in the struggle to hide and seek your Password.

Relevant estimates show that, there are about 1250-2100 languages. Therefore, is the adoption of Local Language Password Code beneficial to a country? “Around a hundred languages are widely used for inter-ethnic communication. Arabic, Somali, Berber, Amharic, Oromo, Igbo, Swahili, Hausa, Manding, Fulani and Yoruba are spoken by tens of millions of people.” (Wiki).

The above question on adoption of Local Language Password Code is very inviting and critical to the digital-knowledge-of-things (DKoT). Indeed, there have been many illuminating debates on this subject with pros and cons - based on which part of the digital divide one is positioned. Applying digital common sense, using your local language does not only make sense, it is important, strategic and beneficial.

The main focal-point of this write-up can be summarized as follows: “In fact, using characters from a wider pool makes it harder for an attacker to guess your password by brute force. That said, making the password slightly longer generally does that more effectively than sprinkling "weird" characters into your password (obligatory xkcd link), so you should only use non-English characters in your password if you can type and remember them easily, e.g. because you speak a language that uses those characters”.

One thing to keep in mind as we further explore the subject-matter (with ASCII at the Background) is to note that initially, the Internet as we know it today was really not designed with digital security in mind. ASCII is a 7-bit character-set containing 128 characters ranging from the 0-9 numbers, forming the upper and lower case English letters from A to Z, and some special characters. The character-sets used in modern computers, in HTML, and on the Internet, are all based on ASCII. Luckily, Nigerian and most African Languages are alphabet-based.

Simply defined, ASCII (spoken as) ASS-kee), is an acronym which stands for “American Standard Code for Information Interchange”. ASCII is a model designed for character encoding standard to enable flexible electronic communication. Further illuminated, ASCII codes represent text in computers, telecommunications equipment, and other Information Technology devices.

In general, there is no reason not to use arbitrary characters in a password, unless the system processing the password does something stupid with them (like removes them completely, leaving an empty password). History tells us that in the old days of language-specific character- sets, there was always the risk that passwords with non-ASCII characters might disappoint the user when you switched to a different computer.

This problem arises because standardized model has not matured and the system was encoding those characters differently. But today the system devices are much standardized on Unicode as the standard universal character-set – making password construct much admissible as far as it obeys the rules guiding usage of special characters. Some user experience have shown that in Cyberhacking, the attacker does not expect victims using their own local language and sometime mixed with foreign languages – hence, the penetration becomes more difficult for the attacker and delivers improved protection to the User..

Example of the adoption and use of local African Languages for Mobile phone access, email and Mobile financial and ATM transactions are in their millions. A User testimony attested as follows: “I used to have 'special' letters in my email address to combat spam. It worked greatly, I have not yet received a single email for that address”

Also: “Of course, we still have different ways of encoding Unicode characters into bytes, like UTF-8, UTF-16-LE/BE, UCS-32, etc., but at least those are generally pretty well under the receiving program's control, as opposed to depending on the user's OS and/or terminal settings like charset selection used to be. And, honestly, UTF-8 is becoming pretty well established as the standard Unicode encoding for I/O purposes, even if some software may use other encodings internally.) In fact, using characters from a wider pool makes it harder for an attacker to guess your password by brute force”.

That said, making the password slightly longer generally does that more effectively than sprinkling "weird" characters into your password (obligatory xkcd link), so you should only use non-English characters in your password if you can type and remember them easily, e.g. because you speak a language that uses those characters. Still, there are some reasons why you might sometimes not want to use non-ASCII characters in your password.”

Finally, “A word is enough for the wise: Choose, apply and use your local language (with numeric combination where possible) as your preferred Password protection it will safe you life troubles in the digital battle of the 21st Century.”

*Contributed by Chris Uwaje, former president Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON).

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