Password Nightmares


Good Morning Mr. Sampson. Please type in you Personal Identification Number

XXXXXX

Sorry, Mr. Forgetful Idiot! That is not the correct password. Please slap yourself three times around your head and then apply for a new card and number - we are keeping this one.

Don't you just hate them? Passwords give you access to almost every walk of life. They are now the keys to doors that would otherwise violently slam in your face and tell you to XXXXXX, which they often do if you key the wrong password in anyway.

The first passwords to really come on the scene (apart from those required to gain entry into the back room of the Mafia club) where those at the ATM machines. A four-digit PIN number has to be entered before money can be withdrawn and for those with one account and a pass number drawn from an important date, no problem existed.

Then your one account became two as the building societies introduced ATM machines, then your savings account at the post office and then to beat it all Internet Banking came on the scene. Passwords are now required for Banking, shopping on the web, switch cards, visa cards, store cards, petrol cards and any other card that you may have.

Passwords are also required for so many of activities one does these days - especially on the Internet. Get a web site and you have real problems! I have an email account with yahoo, one with AOL and others with a dozen other companies (they were all free at the time) and then I have a web site (well three in fact) and they all require passwords. And then the problems really start when you try marketing and joining discussion groups on the web, etc. Wow, each one requires a USERNAME, each one requires a password and many of them also ask you to have a 'handle' - a name to be recognized by others. Not your real name of course!

I have at the last count 362 different and current usernames, 463 different and current pass codes or passwords and 152 different and often forgotten handles.

Shocked? I am when I put it like that. I have actually filled my brain up with a whole useless pile of words and junk that could otherwise be used to remember all the telephone numbers in my local directory or better still to learn Japanese.

We need these passwords and codes and things. Without them doors are shut and we become isolated from the world around us. So we have them and need them and the first codes are easy as we pull out of the hat some remembered birthday or event and use that with success.

But then companies and "bad people" started to find these codes by researching your past and then gaining access to your life. So we were all warned not to use a date from our past and instead pick a number or word that had no meaning but one that we would remember. A word that we can remember but one that has no significance is almost impossible - why do they say these things? We get past all of that and force our brains to remember some unimportant word and to regurgitate it when required, like at the ATM machine or when checking your email account. That is all fine and well, when only one or two codes are required to be remembered.

Oh, and one must not forget that warnings came out from all corners of security that using the same password for more than one service could cause extreme problems and a heyday for the opportunist who is looking for fools.

Those with a few more (like me) do have serious problems in life. I can maybe remember them all and regurgitate them when required - a no easy feat - but I can never get the correct code for the required service. I stand at the ATM and punch in my pin code, it tells me to go away and if I put the wrong code in again it will eat my card up. I then realize that the code that I am punching into the pad is actually that for my gym club after hours access! So what is my number for this bank and this account? Which number could it be out of a possible 463 and even then have I got it right the right way round?

Life does get complicated. Some people started to write their numbers down, knowing that they would forget them in time. "Well, for heavens sake I only use that pass code once a year - how am I supposed to remember it" can be heard ringing out all over the world. So gentlemen, ladies and others all opt to secretly write their codes in some weird and wonderful place that they think others will never find. Codes are pasted under ornaments, on the walls behind beds and on little scraps of paper all over the house and in drawers and closets and boxes in every conceivable place. Codes and passwords written down can be found everywhere one would look.

Some people then acknowledged the fact that, thieves and robbers (and friends and family) can find these numbers and use them with the cards that they have appropriated. They can probably find them easier than you can when one day you need to use that password yourself. They find them easily whilst you would have completely forgotten where you had hidden or written down the access code. Yes, writing the passwords down on pieces of paper and hiding them in what you thought was a suitable place is no longer acceptable. So what is the options?

Ah, why not encode the code in a series of other codes using a system that only you know how to decode. A great idea!

Around the world at any one moment in time there are hundreds of thousands of people scratching their heads over a pile of numbers and letters. Thousands of amateur coders having failed in their missions and are unable to decode the code that they had intricately designed all that time ago. The code of codes that was the answer to all robbers and others from finding out what your passwords are is now a mystery to you. Yes, take it from me that 99% of those that hide their passwords in a longer text of letters or numbers fail in their attempt to decode them one month later.

So where are we? We have hundreds of passwords to remember, they cannot be drawn from significant dates or events, we cannot use the same ones for more than one service, we cannot write them down and encoding them is just a waste of time. Ouch, not much choice in life. It looks as if we are all condemned to having a section of our brains filled with a succession of numbers and words that must be instantly available upon request.

For those with computers a solution became possible with the advent of the "password program". A clever piece of software that could remember all of those nasty passwords and usernames: to regurgitate them upon request. But then of course hackers and those unseen computer information thieves found ways to gain access to your computer through the telephone line, enter that marvelous piece of software and to rapidly use all of those codes that you had hidden away in the internals. And you, unawares of this entry into your private domain, find your emails have all been read by some unknown, that your bank account shows that you have fully utilized the 5000 pound overdraft and that you now owe Visa and American Express some amazing amount of hard currency that you do not have - and never will. Oh, and do not think for a minute that your store cards are free of purchases or that your partner is not going to find out about the secret email accounts you have setup!

In short, this piece of software is no longer a viable solution for those with something to lose. It is not suitable for anyone - in other words!

So what can we do? Remember them is all that you can do. Try and remember all of those passwords and numbers and codes in some sort of system in your heads. Life though is not that easy as certain recommendations have been coming out for us to enhance our own security further as nowadays hackers can now enter your computer and read off the pass codes as you tap them in. So even if you follow all of the security advice that is issued your accounts and your life can still be invaded easily and without second thought.

The answer? Well, all you have to do is make sure that you change all your codes at least once a month.

Impossible you say? Well, I must admit the thought of having just committed to memory over 600 passwords, numbers and codes and then having to throw them all out and input new ones every month is not my idea of fun. Impossible in fact!

Two thoughts to leave you with. Most people who use others passwords and codes to gain access to their accounts have in fact been given to them. The majority of theft from ATM machines and banks is through friends giving their supposed friends the number of their account in a loose moment. It is not as one would assume from people who have stolen the number from the hidden pocket in your wallet or the hacker through the telephone cable. These occur but not to such a great extent as those who give their passwords to others in a moment of stupidity.

Thinking about it, finger print identity is not such a bad thing after all. Would make life one hell of a lot easier! Just put your thumb on a little touch pad and you gain instant access to everything. And you only require one of them, you have no need to remember where you put it, if somebody steals it you will notice immediately and there is no need to change it every month.

Move on technology as at present my head is filled to busting with useless information!

About The Author

Author and Webmaster of www.seadolby.com">Seamania. As a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy he has sailed the world for fifteen years. Now living in Taiwan he writes about cultures across the globe and life as he sees it.


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