Newsmaker: Ashwini Rao

Tom Fontaine
| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 11:33 p.m.

Noteworthy: Rao will present findings from research she led on how grammar affects password security to an Association for Computing Machinery conference on Feb. 20 in San Antonio.

Age: 32

Residence: Shadyside

Family: Husband, Birendra Jha

Occupation: Rao is a software engineering doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University.

Background: Rao worked as an engineer at Appian Corp. in Reston, Va., and Qualcomm Inc. in San Diego, as well as a researcher and teaching assistant at CMU. A research team led by Ashwini developed a password-cracking algorithm that took into account grammar and tested it against more than 1,400 passwords containing at least 16 letters. Using a phrase or short sentence might make a password easier for users to remember, but proper grammatical structure also narrows possible combinations and sequences of words, research showed.

Education: Bachelor's degree from the University of Mysore in India and master's degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and CMU

Quote: “I've seen password policies that say, ‘Use five words.' Well, if four of those words are pronouns, they don't add much security.”

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