"Help, I’m locked out of login by Thai keyboard"

A while back I got the following plea for help:

My default keyboard language has been English for login. Some how it was switch to Thai and I do not have a Thai user login.  I don't know how to switch back to an English language keyboard so I can log back in my desktop. I have tried using the alt + shift keys to switch the language but it didn't do anything. My OS is window XP Home.

The reference to "alt + shift" is about the function that allows you to switch between multiple input locales (language keyboards and IMEs).  This is the default behavior every where in Windows XP (both Home and Pro) except for the login screen.   There is a way to set up multiple input locales for the login screen (see: Alternate Language Keyboards for Login in my Dr. International columns), but this would not help the plea-for-help because they still needed to login in order to use this.

So I suggested that they use the old stand by that is commonly used for entering in accented characters from an English keyboard (i.e. using the <alt>+<keypad numbers>).  What I mean is to enter say "Pat" as the user name, go to "User Name" field of the login screen.  Then to enter in "P", while holding down the <alt>-key on the number-pad press "0", "0", "8", "0" then let up on the <alt> key.  This should insert the upper case "P", then repeat using "0", "0", "9", "7" for lowercase "a" and "0", "1", "1", "6" for a lowercase "t".  What you are doing is entering the 1252 codepage decimal value of each of these characters.  I explained that they can use this method for both your user name and password. 

After writing the explanation, it got me thinking that this may be an interesting way create a strong password.  If you have the English keyboard as the default for login, you could add an accented character to your password, say É (<alt>+0201).  Unless some one knows what that character is and how to input it using an English keyboard it would be hard to gustimate. 

Also, this will work for any keyboard you use for your login screen default.  The reason is no matter what keyboard you use for login, the <alt>+<keypad numbers> always inputs 1252 codepage characters.  So you could use an obscure 1252 code page character that your keyboard does not have, thus making this a stronger password.

Comments (4)
  1. Richard says:

    The alt-number approach has been suggested before (can’t find the reference). But I recall a warning: don’t use the numeric keyboard and enter something like alt-013 in the middle of your password…

  2. DrIntl suggests an interesting way to strenghten passwords… Question: Does this method offer better resistance to keyboard loggers ?

  3. MSDN Archive says:

    <P>Richard, </P>

    <P>Good point about not placing alt<ALT>+013 or any other control character in the middle of your password. One is never quick sure how an application my interpret it. As for the use of the <ALT>+<NUMBER> approach, it is like anything else. One needs to use common sense in what one does. ;-)</P>

    <P>Dr. Intl&nbsp;</P>

  4. MSDN Archive says:

    Serge, Good question. It all depends on the sophistication of the keyboards logger. If it only logs the main keys like a-z, 0-9 and shift, then yes this is better resistance. If the logger keeps track of all keystrokes and this method is no better than any other. Dr. Intl

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