Escape Songkran and learn something about password security with Edward Snowden

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If Songkran signals the start of you spending the next three days hiding out indoors with the air con turned down to its lowest and with only a fridge full of 7-Eleven microwave meals and the Thaivisa forum to keep you company, you could do far worse than listen to what America’s most famous hero and/or traitor has to say about password security.

In case you missed it, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver recently interviewed NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The interview was brilliant. It was not only funny, but unbelievably incisive and informative, with Oliver doing what he does best: using comedy and satire to turn serious and complicated issues into topics which are not only highly amusing but which can be easily understood for the vast majority of the audience.

If you’ve not yet watched the original Snowden/Oliver interview you can do so below. The interview starts at 13:43 but you should watch the whole video – it’ll be 33 minutes well spent and I guarantee it’s better than being  soaked with a bucket of ice cold water.

The interview, despite being somewhat lighthearted towards the end, Oliver is pretty tough on Snowden grilling him on his role in handing the leaked NSA documents over to journalists. Oliver also told Snowden how he should take responsibility for his actions in releasing the documents, especially as some of the information has been handled “with incompetence” by the people given the documents by Snowden.

Oliver then referred to a document published in the New York Times, which due to someone at the organisation improperly redacting highly sensitive information regarding how the US government was operating against al-Qaeda in Iraq, meant that anyone and everyone was able to read the classified information.

Edward who?

The interview then continued with a more comedic approach, when Oliver showed Snowden footage of members of the American public who were asked if the knew about Edward Snowden.

Incredibly, it seems that most Americans, or at least the ones who were interviewed by the Last Week Tonight, have little or no idea who Edward Snowden is, with most people confusing him with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

Snowden, who prior to the interview had been described by Oliver as “the most famous hero and/or traitor in recent American history,” went onto explain how basically the United States government can pretty much dip into your personal information via the likes of Facebook and Gmail any time it likes and can even access your most personal pictures (watch the full interview and you’ll see what I mean – #dickpics).

Edward Snowden on passwords

HBO has since released another outtake of the interview where Snowden discusses the importance of having a really good password, or rather, a passphrase.

Snowden explains that it can take a computer less than a second to crack most 8 character passwords and recommends using a whole phrase that a computer would simply not be able to guess so easily. Snowden’s suggestion: margaretthatcheris110%sexy.

Now whilst there are few who could argue with that statement (LOLZ), the point here is not the Iron Lady’s sultry good looks but rather the importance and responsibility users have in choosing a secure password or phrase.

In this day and age the likes of pa$$word, 12345, or the name of your pet dog just won’t cut it.

And yes, despite being totally irrelevant, I did just manage to shoehorn Thailand’s water splashing new year festival into a story about Internet security.

Happy Songkran!

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