This woman has made her own bad password dress… and a security blanket

Graham Cluley

Lorrie Faith Cranor isn’t just a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, a co-director of the MSIT Privacy-Engineering masters program, and a director at CyLab’s Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory.

She’s also been a keen quilt maker for the past 20 years.

And – rather wonderfully – she has brought these two different aspects of her life together.


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In a blog post, Cranor described how the “security blanket” was created using passwords culled from an infamous data breach:

I asked my students to extract the 1000 most popular passwords from the RockYou data set and provide a list to me with frequency counts. I then went through the list and sorted them into a number of thematic groups. I assigned a color to each group and entered the passwords with weights and colors into the Wordle online word cloud generator.

I then saved the output as a PDF and edited it in Adobe Illustrator to rearrange them in a shape that I liked, with some pairs of words purposefully place in close proximity.

I designed a border, and had the whole thing printed on one large sheet of fabric by Spoonflower. When the fabric arrived, I layered it with batting and quilted it. I bound it with matching fabric from Spoonflower that I designed.

Last year, the blanket was on public display at an exhibition called “Computer quilts and privacy” (yes, really…)

Password dress

But Cranor didn’t stop at her qwerty-monkey-iloveu-chocolate-superman quilt.

She also made a dress, covering herself from neck to knee with the very worst password choices.

Disappointingly for pun-writers, she isn’t wearing any passwords on her sleeve.

But if you want to purchase Cranor’s fabric design for your own creations she has made it available via Spoonflower. (You can choose versions with or without the naughty words that some people choose as their passwords)

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, on Mastodon at @[email protected], or drop him an email.

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