Password Paranoia

Are you the Keymaker? I forgot a password this week. I needed to get to work writing on a new project and “advanced technology” got in the way. It wasn’t pretty.

I had a Matrix flashback and felt as though I was on a search for the Keymaker to unlock a password for one of my accounts. Then, I found out that the Keymaker was a big fat lie.

Passwords are everywhere. It seems that passwords lock off every aspect of your digital life, from e-mail, social media, access to your phone, laptop, banking, even that Amazon binge shopping trip is dependent upon that one golden password. All to supposedly keep us safe from a hacker, or in the case of an Amazon sleep shopping episode, safe from ourselves. (it happens, don’t judge)

I don’t remember my first password. It was on a government computer and it was issued to me with stern warnings that made it seem like the launch codes for the nation’s nuclear arsenal were at risk. Since it was “issued” to me, it didn’t have any personal connection to me, so I did what we all did back then–I wrote it down on a post-it note and stuck it to my monitor. Apparently, that’s not a good thing to do because someone did a bad thing and used someone else’s log on ID to watch porn at work. (No, it wasn’t me).  So, the IT nerds let us set our own passwords–and that’s the way it’s been ever since. Cue the slippery slope.

In 2003, digital life as we knew it, ended. A man named Bill Burr published a technical report and set the standard for complex passwords. This is the guy that decreed, thou shalt create passwords with seven or more characters, with special symbols and numbers–yeah, let’s throw numbers in there too. Oh, and thou shall change them every ninety days. And don’t use them for more than one account…

An entire industry was spawned overnight. Password generators, vaults to store saved passwords, and massive encryption software programs were built. Log in screens showed up everywhere with the familiar user name and ID blanks. Our lives became a bit more complicated.

And, it was all a big lie…

Mr. Burr came out this month and said–nevermind. Turns out he was wrong and now regrets his recommendations. Not only were people filling prescriptions for anti-anxiety medication because they forgot their nonsensical passwords, the complex number and character passwords were not that secure. If, you’re like millions of us, that link on the log in page, “I’ve forgotten my password,” gets a lot of use.

We’ve been schooled and drilled that your password can’t be a simple word like “password”,  your name, or qwerty, or 1234. All the easy to recall options are out the window. I don’t really trust computer (Skynet) generated password strings that look like someone dropped a bowl of alphabet soup on your keyboard either. Does it have to include the name of the doctor who cut my cord at birth?

I know identity fraud is real and there is a need for some degree of digital condom-like protection, but when the Keymaker says, “Nevermind,” to the complex number and special character sequence, I have to laugh just a bit, because my lost, unrecoverable password–I found it on a post-it note, stuck to other post-it notes with old passwords…

 

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4 comments

  1. Just tonight as I retyped the log in name and password on the TV screen and ground my teeth I could not stop myself from shouting passwords are the tools of Satan. No one paid me the least bit of attention.

    1. The television (netflilx and the like) are the worst. It’s the pressure of having to enter that damn password, with now–we are all waiting!

  2. You are so right. I keep an endless list of user names and passwords for every where the internet takes me. I just hope I don’t ever forget where I hide that list. As I get older, that is a distinct possibility.

    1. I know, someday I will forget where the list is. I get a preview of that life every time I visit the memory care units with the therapy dogs…someday…

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