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A Brief History of Passwords

Here’s everything you need to know about passwords.

We’re unlocking some fun facts about passwords and sharing best practices to help you keep yours secure at home and at work.

Learn passwords’ origin story—including how they’ve evolved, where they’re headed, and how to keep yours safe now.

Plus, get tips and tricks for generating strong passwords, keeping your password score healthy, and securing your data in your specific industry—from nonprofits to finance.

The evolution of passwords

Watchwords Icon

The Roman “watchword”

Back in the day, the Roman army used “watchwords”—passphrases that proved you were a member of the unit. This early authentication system was a fast way to tell if someone was a friend or an enemy. 

Prohibition Password Icon

The Prohibition password

In the 1920s, Prohibition led to the rise of “speakeasy” bars where alcohol was sold illegally and on the down-low. Presenting a card, code phrase, or saying a password was your ticket to getting inside.

The 1st digital password

In 1961, MIT computer science professor Fernando Corbato created the first digital password as a project problem-solver. When he built a giant time-sharing computer, several users needed their own private access to the terminals. His solution? Give each user their own password.

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Web 2.0 password overload

Today, there are passwords for almost everything. Each person has about 100 of them, and they’re often shared between family, friends, and coworkers. (Netflix, anyone?) Trying to remember all these details on a daily basis has led to major password fatigue.

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The future of passwords is now

Gone are the days when it was okay to store passwords on a sticky note or in a spreadsheet. Now, password managers with autofill and essential security features like two-factor authentication (2FA) and biometrics can help you safely access your accounts—on all your devices—in seconds.

Headshot of Carissa Tilford, Director of Operations, Jeffrey Demure + Associates

“Thinking about our tech stack alone, team members need a dozen passwords. It’s human nature to want to use the same password for everything. Your brain only has so much room to remember passwords.”

—Carissa Tilford, Director of Operations, Jeffrey Demure + Associates

Password protection tools and tips

Dashlane's Official Choice for the Worst Password Offenders of 2021
Stolen Passwords and Ransomware Attacks: What Businesses Can Do Right Now
Everything You Need to Know About Your Password Health Score
Quick, Reliable, & Secure: Dashlane’s Password Generator Tool

Working smarter means working safer

We know that security needs vary by industry. That’s why we created industry-specific password playbooks to help secure your unique accounts and protect against your specific vulnerabilities. Check them out below and learn how to start creating, managing, and sharing passwords easily and securely with Dashlane.

Find your industry:

Password Playbook for Small Businesses
Password Playbooks for Colleges and Universities
Password Playbook for Healthcare Providers
Password Playbooks for Nonprofits
Password Playbooks for Marketers
Password Playbook for Legal Services Professionals

For more resources on password management, head to our resource library:

Headshot of Kartheek S., Head of IT at Consero Global

“We’ve increased our security and helped clients increase theirs. We’re proud to tell our clients that we’re using Dashlane, and really, we think that every company handling client credentials should use Dashlane.”

— Kartheek S. Head of Information Technology, Consero Global

Why 15+ million people trust Dashlane as their password manager

Dashlane is innovative and easy to use

Best-in-class autofill powered by machine learning

Patented zero-knowledge security architecture

Log in to your Dashlane account or get started with a free trial today.