Passwords…Mission Impossible

tamrawilson Uncategorized

Let’s face it. We’re drowning in passwords.

What used to be associated with secret clubs and fraternity handshakes have crept into everyday life at an alarming clip. Passwords are required to open an account, pay a bill, retrieve your own money and order stuff. Passwords are needed for things you merely want and those you don’t: emails from your insurance company, your tax preparer, your banker, your doctor.

Passwords are the good guys in a world of sleepless hackers and identity thieves who lurk around every computer screen. Outsmarting them has given rise to 21st-century paranoia—discovery of your passwords.

Picking a password is something like playing Scrabble in Chinese or maybe Sudoku. It’s too numerical for me.  I follow the rules: no birth dates or obvious data like addresses or phone numbers. Different passwords for different accounts, which gives rise to reams of passwords to remember. I’ve used nicknames, pet names, childhood nonsense, jumbled root words, foreign terms and different combinations for my passwords only to forget them the day they’ve been changed to something “safe.” They are secure all right, from me.

Some setups require passwords that must be “used” within 90 days or they’re no good. These are particularly annoying because they have a built-in fuse, like the one on “Mission Impossible.”

Recently I ran out a paper copy of my passwords. It was 11 sheets of data to access for everything from hotel reservation websites, reward cards, frequent flier accounts, retailers. Some of them are no doubt expired like a head of lettuce turned soupy in the back of the vegetable bin. I’ll never know until I try to use them and learn the bad news. Access denied.

How to access and reset the password. The secret code can be sent to your email if you can remember what it is. Most of us don’t normally email ourselves.

A recent data breach prompted me to go through my password list and update them. I knocked on the cybergates of my various credit card accounts, bank accounts, organizations and other places that require a password which is just about everything. I updated them.

I received snarky comments: Very weak, Weak or Medium. Only when I encrypted my password with a nonsensical combination of capitals, symbols numbers and letters did the messenger praise me with “Strong.” Trying to remember what I had just typed, means you must write it down quick, before they dissolve into the black hole. Then hide it where you think you can find it again.

A friend told me recently that she bought an address book to store her passwords alphabetically. Brilliant, I thought. Organized, methodical, logical—assuming you can remember where you kept the address book.