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Need A Better Password? This 11-Year-Old Will Sell You One

Mira Modi sold some glasses of lemonade growing up, but her business acumen really took off when she learned about Diceware. Diceware is a decades-old system in which a person—be it an elementary school student like Mira or a cybersecurity professional—rolls six-sided dice to generate random numbers that morph into unique, hard-to-crack passwords using a 35-page index of English words.

Diceware first entered Mira’s life when her mom, investigative reporter Julia Angwin, was working on a book about privacy and data security. For the project, Angwin conducted experiments like ditching Google, using a burner phone and conscripting her elementary school-aged daughter to create volumes of secure passwords. Mira says her mom was “too lazy” to roll the dice, but we’ll cut Julia a break there. She was researching and writing a book, after all.

Once the book “Dragnet Nation” was out in the world, Mira accompanied her mom at book events, where she created and sold passwords on-site. Rolling merrily along, Mira got an idea. If she could make passwords and take orders online, she could make a lot more money. So Mira approached her mom with a workflow, a template, a prospective website design: a business plan. Angwin wasn’t sure about letting her 11-year-old daughter to be so present online, but impressed by Mira’s moxie, she relented.

Mira works her side hustle when she isn’t otherwise busy doing homework, chores or extracurriculars. She charges $2 per password, up from the initial price of $1. The finished product is handwritten on a notecard and sent to its buyer via snail mail. Mira doesn’t keep a digital copy of the password, so it only exists in one place. She reminds potential customers on her website, "US Postal Mail cannot be opened by the government without a search warrant."

As of November 2015, Mira had received about 900 orders but only completed up to half due to her other commitments. Per her website, “This is not a two-day Amazon Prime shipping kind of situation.” So if you’re trying to improve your online security—and you should be—just give the dice a roll.


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