One Trek Mind: Ten Most Secure Alphanumeric Passwords Derived from Star Trek
I remember a time when the only people who had personal computers were hardcore Star Trek fans. (Or Dungeons and Dragons fans, or Monty Python fans, or people who listened to Yes’ “Close to the Edge” on repeat.) Nowadays, owning a modem doesn't make you special anymore, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't let your motherboard be your mothership and let your geek flag fly.
Among the peskier things about personal computing is the never-ending call to create passwords. One for email, one for Facebook, one to download Dayton Ward's newest e-book from Amazon. To that end, we'd like to recommend 10 Star Trek-based passwords, some of which you'd need the M5 Computer itself to break.
Surely the most basic of passwords. (Indeed, I think the last time I used this one I was programming in BASIC!) NCC-1701 is, of course, the registry number of the Constitution Class USS Enterprise. “No bloody A, B, C or D” as Scotty once put it. NCC is not an official abbreviation for anything in Star Trek lore, but how the prefix was chosen is an interesting story. TOS production designer Matt Jefferies, in the spirit of Roddenberry optimism, took the “NC” prefix of American civil aircraft and combined it with the “CCCC” of the Soviet Union.
Even non-Star Trek fans know “NCC-1701,” don't they? (My word, could you imagine going through life without knowing “NCC-1701?” Let's just give non-fans the benefit of the doubt and say they know it.) With this in mind, let's jump ahead a few years – and a few successful series – and use the registry of Voyager as a solid ship-based password.
TNG's first season introduced the Bynars, the somewhat pesky Boolean-based li'l aliens who like to make dangerous computer upgrades. 11001001 was the name of a file they stored within the Enterprise's computer to aid them in transferring massive amounts of data. It was also the name of the episode and, if someone isn't a Trek fan, it makes a pretty good password out of only two numbers.
In the episode “Court Martial,” Captain James T. Kirk reads into the record his long string of commendations. They include the Palm Leaf of Axanar Peace Mission, Grankite Order of Tactics, Class of Excellence, Prantares Ribbon of Commendation. (These fantastical names no doubt spawning an unending sea of fan art.) In addition to these accolades, we learn his serial number as well.
Earlier in the very same episode, we learn some great details about Mr. Spock. In addition to his serial number (not quite as long, so perhaps not as secure) Spock is a little more vague about his laurels, merely mentioning that he's been “twice decorated” by Starfleet command. Vulcans don't feel the need to brag.
If you ever get caught red handed gathering photons from a nuclear wessel, this code is all you have to give the interrogating officer. When Pavel Chekov wasn't able to beam away from the USS Enterprise in time (no, not THAT Enterprise, a different Enterprise) he figured honesty was the best policy. He gave his name rank and service number – baffling everyone with talk of the United Federation of Planets. A tumble over the side of the ship to the hard ground almost cost Chekov his life, but luckily Dr. McCoy was able to infiltrate the 20th century hospital and the “medievalism” within.
What we have here is the four-part spoken codes for the auto-destruct sequence of the Enterprise. As first divulged in TOS's season three episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” the first part is given by the Captain, the second section from the second in command, and the third part by third in command. Then, the last bit is given by the Captain to kick off the 30-second countdown.
On the show it was Kirk, Spock and Scotty (used to show Bele of Cheron who was boss), but in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock it was Kirk, Scotty and Chekov. (Also, the countdown was bumped from 30 to 60 seconds.) We're not going to tell you just where the different segments of the sequence begin and end – that many secrets we're not willing to divulge!
When Kirk and Spock beamed down to the mental asylum on Elba II they were wise to create a secret code to communicate back with the Enterprise. It was almost as if they knew that Garth of Izar (that's Lord Garth!) would be there and that he would have mastered the Antosian art of cellular manipulation. (They didn't know that, but whatever - “Whom Gods Destroy” is still a great episode.)
Scotty's first part of the code is “Queen to Queen's Level Three,” a move in Tri-D chess. The proper response is “Queen to King's Level One.” I'll be honest, I barely know how to play regular chess, let alone the type of chess that could possibly engage the mind of a Vulcan. After studying some of actual Tri-D chess sites online and looking at their algebraic notations, I think what I have here is the correct way of spelling out the back and forth of this code.
You can't keep a Vulcan from the koon-ut-kal-if-fee during pon farr, and you can't keep a Soong-type android away from the call of its creator. The episode “Brothers” shows Data shanghai-ing the ship and using Picard's voice to lock-out others from the computer. The above code, the most hardcore of alphanumeric codes in the history of television, would take 8.467×1080 combinations to break. This one should therefore be reserved for only the most important security measures – like where you hide your Kes/M'Ress fan fiction.
Nog was the first Ferengi in Starfleet, so this means he was the first Ferengi to memorize a number that didn't have to do with securing latinum or maximizing profit. In the episode “Rocks and Shoals,” he begins blurting out his serial number but, by the time he gets to the second dash, he's told to shut up by none other than Elim Garak! As such, we never hear the end of his code. Therefore, it is up to YOU to finish it, hence making it the most unbreakable password ever, in that the level of uncertainty renders it virtually unknowable! A veritable boundless myriad of permutations!
Whew! All these numbers and letters have left me exhausted. Tell me, have YOU ever used a Star Trek alphanumeric for a password? If so – let us know in the comments. Only don't get too specific! (Also, eternal gratitude to Lt. Commander Neil Pedley for suggesting this week's column – and doing the bulk of the research, too!)
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.