Generate an XKCD #936 style 4 word password

shuf -n4 /usr/share/dict/words | tr -d '\n'
4 random words are better than one obfuscated word
Sample Output

By: Strawp
2011-08-10 13:04:39

12 Alternatives + Submit Alt

What Others Think

Unfortunately, Randall Munroe doesn't understand entropy from information theory. The definition is clearly defined as H=L*log_2(N), where H is the amount of entropy in binary bits, L is the length of the message, log_2() is the log base 2, and N is the total possible characters available given the set of characters in the password. Thus, "Tr0ub4d0r&3" has 78-bits of entropy, and "correcthorsebatterystable" has 117-bits of entropy.
atoponce · 532 weeks and 2 days ago
Sadly, his reasoning is flawed as well, as discussed in great detail here...
costa24 · 532 weeks and 2 days ago
If you're going to downvote this, don't do it because the idea that inspired it is flawed. For what it's supposed to do, it does it well, and could be used for a non-flawed idea. Sadly, 'shuf' is not installed on every machine. It should be. Some later editions of GNU sort have a '-R option, so you could use 'sort -R /usr/share/dict/words |head -4 |' instead... but not every distro has up-to-date version of GNU sort, either. For example, I can see both are missing from RHEL / CentOS 5.6
Mozai · 532 weeks and 2 days ago
Thus, the reason it was downvoted by me. shuf(1) isn't portable across all Unices. However, last I checked, I didn't need to explain why I voted one way or the other.
atoponce · 532 weeks and 2 days ago
Ah, I see. I've always aimed for brevity in commands whereas I see here we're aiming for universally supported, core function based commands. I did wonder about some of my previous submissions...
Strawp · 532 weeks and 1 day ago
@atoponce: I'ts *generally* a good practice to comment and explain whenever you vote down.
parga_nanbat · 532 weeks and 1 day ago
Man that troy hunt guy is super verbose... but after skimming the article I don't see where he says Munroe's idea is flawed. The closest thing would be that Munroe doesn't specify that the total number of characters is important, not using the 4 words. The 4 words are just a convenient way to get a decent number of characters that are easy to remember. All lower case alpha is perfectly fine as long as its long enough. Do the math. The biggest flaw I see is that if an attacker knows you use 4 words like this it will make your password easy to brute force.
eikenberry · 532 weeks and 1 day ago
I think some of you missed the point Randall was making. @atoponce: your equation for entropy is only true for a string which doesn't exhibit "inter-symbol memory" (each character is random and unrelated to adjacent characters). A password based on a word does have inter-symbol memory, so you have to consider the entire word as a single symbol, and N becomes the list of words it was drawn from. Randall apparently came up with a list of 64 thousand words (16 bits). The additional bits show the likely ways those 64k base words are typically obfuscated, so you effectively have a single symbol drawn from 256 million possible values (28 bits). For the 'secure' password, my dictionary file has 98,569 words, so using your equation: H = L*log_2(N) = 4*log_2(98569) = 66 bits. @eikenberry: It's more conservative to consider each word as a 'symbol', so instead of a 25-symbol string with 4.7 bits each (26 different letters), you have a string of 4 symbols with 16.5 bits each. So, it doesn't matter if you tell the attacker that you used this command to generate the password, because he still has 2^66 combinations to try which would take 2.3 billion years to try based on the rates Randall is using (he might get lucky and find the answer in ~1 billion years). An important point (the Troy mentions also), is that these rates only apply to brute force attacks via a web interface. I wouldn't use any of these for a Truecrypt volume or any other local or offline system that doesn't inherently limit the attempt rate.
__ · 532 weeks and 1 day ago
Randall himself has discussed this a little: . . .
__ · 532 weeks and 1 day ago
scream, or enjoy the cicadas flap its wings when you bring the cool wind; when passing Hasuike also puffed breath goods products that Lotus aroma; hours because ignorance has been poked hornet's nest and stung his face was bruised. Dig once, because "small insects" (Sparrow) and took out a "snake" (Snake) scared to fall from the wall. Fortunately, nothing serious. Leisure time, will collect some cigarette paper folded triangle, and partners to play; (the triangle on the ground and put his hand on the ground quick photo shoot the other side of the triangle is the triangle that turned their a); and also than own older brother and sister were led to a wide flat on the grass or doing "of chicken" or "kill the lamb" of the game, before the election when one eagle, then tall in front when hens , when the rest of the chicken, the eagle chasing shot at the back of the chick, hen with open arms to protect chickens, smart dodge to keep eagle patting. Or a dozen people sitting in a circle, do a do Diushou Juan game: the hands of only one person to take the handkerchief out of his mouth in a circle singing Diushou Juan songs, danced around the circle turning quietly throw the handkerchief in the back of a person. Then run around in circles. If you have a lap behind the handkerchief patting, this people have not found the person you want to give a performance for everyone; a joke, sing songs, or back poem. Then began Diushou Juan by him or her. If this is discovered immediately took the handkerchief catch Diushou Juan people, that Diushou Juan will continue to lose, someone who can back into place; catch, and throw this man who has sat on the bit when this man will be punished performances. We will play along with a dozen "Stars over the month child" or "cat drilled 72 holes" game. (Read the article Network: I remember one summer, that the acquisition of medicinal city recovered cicada skin (medical term called cicada), catty two five. So every day, together with my brothers holding bamboo, Dianzhe plastic bags, and from the village in the woods to find a tree cicada skin, after the end of the summer, we harvest relatively big, full harvest four pounds, to buy ten dollars. The next summer we look for a summer, more than the first year looking for even more, I did not expect there to happily after being told not recovered. Cicada got hard skin, back at home after shuffling, and
zyf543 · 288 weeks and 6 days ago
@atoponce That formula only works if each character is chosen uniformly randomly, which is not how passwords like 'Tr0ub4d0r&3' or 'correcthorsebatterystable' are generated. (I.e.: the user didn't just randomly pick letters one by one that happened to spell out a word).
alec · 223 weeks and 3 days ago
seo what is seo search engine optimization
seofox · 4 weeks and 4 days ago

What do you think?

Any thoughts on this command? Does it work on your machine? Can you do the same thing with only 14 characters?

You must be signed in to comment.

What's this? is the place to record those command-line gems that you return to again and again. That way others can gain from your CLI wisdom and you from theirs too. All commands can be commented on, discussed and voted up or down.

Share Your Commands

Stay in the loop…

Follow the Tweets.

Every new command is wrapped in a tweet and posted to Twitter. Following the stream is a great way of staying abreast of the latest commands. For the more discerning, there are Twitter accounts for commands that get a minimum of 3 and 10 votes - that way only the great commands get tweeted.


Subscribe to the feeds.

Use your favourite RSS aggregator to stay in touch with the latest commands. There are feeds mirroring the 3 Twitter streams as well as for virtually every other subset (users, tags, functions,…):

Subscribe to the feed for: