The Heartbleed Bug: Memorising complex passwords from Tony Buzan

April 16th, 2014

Image of The Heartbleed BugThe Heartbleed Bug is the ultimate web nightmare; our online lives exposed and vulnerable to attack. Suddenly, the name of our first pet can no longer protect us, even if we put a number 1 at the end. We must now change all of our passwords for online accounts. Not only that, the passwords all have to be different and complex.

How can we possibly remember everything? What if every day is a constant cycle of forgotten passwords and security questions?

In a recent interview with the BBC, inventor of Mind Mapping and founder of the World Memory Championships, Tony Buzan, shared his tips on memorising complex passwords. Here’s what you need to know…

How to memorise your passwords

Making something memorable is all about using the power of association and location.

In order to remember a string of online passwords, all you have to do is associate each individual letter and number with something else. The more you stimulate and use your imagination, the more connections you will be able to make, and the more you will be able to memorise.

Say, for example, my password is:


Take the first letter; what do you associate it with? It could be a word beginning with that letter, or perhaps the shape of the letter resembles something else.

S = snake (it begins with the same letter and a snake can rememble the shape of the letter S)

You need to visualise this as clearly as possible. Picture a snake curling into the shape of that letter. Do that with each of the characters in your password, such as:

4 = a flamingo with one leg bent against the other (forming the shape of the number 4)

8 = an hourglass

5 = hive (rhyming is another good technique you can use)

Once you have come up with vivid associations for each character in your password, you need to link them together so that you can remember the correct order. To do this, you can create a story that incorporates each character/image.

A snake (S) slithering across the sand, spots a flamingo (4) proudly standing in the shallows of a watering hole. It begins its approach, going for the kill, and time is now slowly trickling away for the flamingo, like sand in an hourglass (8). But then, the snake accidently knocks against a fallen beehive (5) hidden in the grass and hundreds of bees come swarming out, scaring the snake away.

Yes, it’s ridiculous; but the more strange and imaginative you can make the story, the more likely you are to remember it. It’s a simple, but effective technique. Give it a try and start exercising your creative muscles!


Want to know more about how you can improve your memory? You can learn directly from Tony Buzan on his ThinkBuzan Licensed Instructor in Memory courses.


ThinkBuzan Update: After the Heartbleed security vulnerability was announced last week, all of our critical services were patched within hours of the announcement, with patches following immediately afterwards for less critical areas.

As a precaution, we would recommend you log into your iMindMap account and change your password at Simply go to ‘Settings’ and select ‘Account Password’.

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  1. Andrew Molloy

    Almost all my passwords have special characters too. What’s the best way to memorize them? Also it didn’t really clearly distinguish between upper and lower case. Sure some are different shapes but the example of snake for S, could be ambiguous for upper or lower case.

  2. the doctor

    48 or 84 ?

  3. Very Grumpy

    It is not only passwords which change, but user IDs, account names, PINs and email addresses associated with different accounts. At any point in time, you will need to access and/or change these. Some also have double password security to get in (online banking, for example). It is not uncommon to have upwards of 50 different IDs in regular use. It’s not just the capacity to retain and retrieve this quickly, it’s the fact that they are constantly and randomly changing.

    What are we supposed to do then?

  4. Elinor

    Hi, thank you for your comment.

    You are absolutely right, passwords are changing more, and the amount of passwords we have to remember is increasing.

    In order to remember them, we have to train our brain. By practising regularly, and the ensuring that you use plenty of imagery and association, you will be able to remember a lot more information. For more information about memory training and techniques, you can purchase Tony Buzan’s “The Memory Book”


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