GPUs democratize brute force password hacking

It seems that the availability of increasingly powerful GPUs, when combined with brute-force password cracking tools, is making it increasingly easy to crack passwords -- even if they're extremely well thought out, with symbols and quirky capitalization and all that. How short is too short? According to computer scientists at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, "a seven-character password is hopelessly inadequate, and as GPU power continues to go up every year, the threat will increase." A better alternative, he suggested, would be a 12-character combination of upper and lower case letters, symbols and digits. Of course, processors are only getting more powerful and hardware less expensive -- soon even seven-plus character passwords may become the digital equivalent of unlocked doors. And if that weren't bad enough, a recent study by an Internet security company called BitDefender has determined that some 250,000 user names, email addresses, and passwords used for social networking sites are freely available online -- and seventy-five percent of these folks use the same password for their email and social networking. So, when dreaming up fancy new twelve character passwords, make sure you're creating unique passwords for all your various accounts. It would be a shame if your Starsky & Hutch FanFicForum account left you vulnerable to identity theft.