Keep your PINs away from the Bad Guys...

But accessible to you!

(filename: priv2digits.htm)

Need to remember PINs and other all-digit "secret" numbers?

Think of three dates that are ingrained in your brain, that you could never forget. And try to pick dates that are personal to you, and not likely to be floating around the internet. But you can use birthdays, even your own, in a pinch. Let's say that for you, they are...

March 2nd, 2019
June 14th, 2015 and
August 31st, 1987

Stay with me... Please? The point will emerge soon!

Write them one above the other, with two digits for EACH of day, month, and year. (Do day and month in the order that makes sense to you. I've used the US convention in the example.) I've put "your reason" for knowing those dates beside each.

030219 Birth of your third child
061415 Your marriage
083167 Your mother's birth

Look at the grid you've made. Does every digit.... 0, 1, 2... 8, 9... appear at least once in it? Good! You are done with Step 1. If not, add another date that has the missing digits... but remember: It must be one you know in your sleep.

Now "wrap" the alphabet around your grid. (I've spread things out a bit... don't worry about that, it was just to make things more legible.)

     d e f g h i
     - - - - - -
c -  0 3 0 2 1 9
b -  0 6 1 4 1 5
a -  0 8 3 1 8 7

That's almost it! I will talk about how you remember your secret, and some special features in the method, but you're now ready to use it!

Using it

Remember my opening premise: Those three dates are Special To You. Of course they aren't... you need to "re-do" what I've explained above.

But, for now, pretend with me that those dates are special to you.

And pretend that the pin for your credit card is 9121

Do you see how writing "cichcgbf" on your credit card gives you a way to recall your PIN?

(This page being pushed out in haste.... I will try to come back to it, explain, if you can't see for yourself.)

Remembering the system

I hope you would do better than this, that you could find foolproof but more reliable clues.

Somewhere, you would carry a slip of paper.

On it, in a different form... we'll come to that!... you'd write...

With that reminder of WHICH dates you wrote down, and the ORDER they were in, you can always regenerate the grid of digits your code is based upon. Then you add the "wrapped" letters... and you have your "lookup" card!

Do I expect you to write out that card every time you want to look up a digit?? No! Of course not!

It really isn't hard... for you

It's easier than it seems. And for not very important PINs, you can take a shortcut.

If I had to remember "1234", I might write down, in plain sight, ch2cg4...

a) For an unimportant PIN, there's no need to encipher every digit
b) If you use the first line for "everyday" PINs, you will soon find yourself able to visualize....

          d e f g h i
          - - - - - -
     c -  0 3 0 2 1 9

... in your head, with no need to write it out.

(Assign a date to the first line that has as few repeated digits as you can.)

Make it hard for The Bad Guys

A moment ago, I said you'd need to carry a card saying...

You don't need to write "Key to unlock all my enciphered PINs" on that, do you?

And try to be a bit "clever". Let's say your child's private name within the family is "Pooky". The first line could just be "Pooky", couldn't it. You know who Pooky is, AND you know that you need to be reminded of a date. How many dates are attached to Pooky??

If you and your partner have a bit of fun each year because you sometimes forget your anniversary... with three kids, you have an excuse... then would "Don't forget" do? That would be an oblique reference to your anniversary. Be careful, though. Don't be too clever. If you're having trouble remembering a PIN, you'll already be stressed. And stress, for many of us, makes our brain go "deer in headlights". There are lots of things in my life that are on the "Don't forget" list.

You want an oblique clue... but one that will direct you to one and only one date.

If you were born Jan 1st, 1990, then "My first Christmas" would be an oblique clue for December 25th, 1990. (Not a very good date or clue, admittedly, but I hope they further illustrate what I mean by an oblique clue. A better "Christmas" clue might be made along the following lines...

If you went to Cornell (Founded by Ezra Cornell), "My first Christmas at Ezra's" would be a better clue. (Clue for the date of Christmas, your freshman year.)

Two factor obfuscation

For many people, those three dates would not be hard to find on the internet. If you remember the exact date of when you broke your arm, then that might be a better date to use in the grid. Clue could be: "Arm! Ouch!"

But even if you use findable dates, all is not lost. The Bad Guys (or Gals) trying to use your credit card, with your enciphered PIN and even your "reminder" card doesn't know they need a date! And even if they did, they don't know how to use it.

To pull the PIN out of the system, the Bad Guys need a chain of ideas and facts. If they lack even one link of the chain, your secret is safe!

And it Really Is Quite Easy To Use this system, once you have become familiar with it. Trust me. But not with what your dates are!

For more of the same...

I've written up other suggestions for staying safe online for you. PLEASE give the pages a try? (Even that index has hints in areas beyond passwords and such that I hope you will find helpful.

And then there's my index to an even broader range of essays and tutorials. Something for anyone! (If you can find it!!)

A few words from the sponsors...

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