ShareThis Page

Heyl: This dress is a steal

| Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 10:30 p.m.
Submitted
Lorrie Cranor.
Submitted
Lorrie Cranor in her password dress.

It's a fashion statement. It's a security breach.

It's a password dress.

It's a dress containing many of weakest passwords imaginable, ones that never should be used to protect your online accounts or other sensitive information unless you have some strange urge to be hacked.

The attire is the brainchild of Lorrie Cranor, the director of Carnegie Mellon University's CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory and director of CMU's privacy engineering master's degree program.

The idea grew out of a similarly adorned quilt that Cranor made while on a sabbatical from her academic duties. “After I designed the quilt with bad passwords, I decided I needed a dress,” said Cranor, 43, of Squirrel Hill.

She made her own pattern by tracing a store-bought dress she owned, then turned to her students for assistance in adding some truly awful passwords.

“We had a data set of about 35 million stolen passwords, and I asked them to extract the thousand most popular ones,” Cranor said. “I then went through the list and then color coded them in thematic groups.”

The categories include a host of password no-nos: male and female first names, pet names, sports teams, foods, obvious numeric strings such as 123456 and unimaginative keyboard patterns such as QWERTY.

Cranor said the dress has been well-received at CMU and the several cyber security conferences where she wore it. But her recent TED video on passwords viewed more than 530,000 times, apparently has sparked interest in the dress.

Kristin Briney, a Wisconsin-based data management specialist, recently made her own password dress using the password fabric that Cranor is selling online. Briney gave the dress a thumbs-up on her website.

There's more.

“Two of my male students are going to a password conference, and they wanted (password) ties,” Cranor said. “I thought about making them myself, but it turns out that ties are harder to make than you might think, so I commissioned someone on Etsy (a website devoted to handmade items) to do it.”

Can password cardigans and underwear be far behind?

If momentum continues to build for the password dress, Cranor could well become the American Eagle of cybersecurity attire.

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.