New Castle News

January 19, 2013

Josh Drespling: Passwords, Pa$$words, Pa$$UU()DZ

Josh Drespling
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — How many times have you been greeted with the following phrase: “Your new password must be at least 16 characters in length, include one capital letter, one numeric symbol, two vowels, a mammal, one hieroglyph from the Mesozoic or Mesopotamian eras, and the periodic symbol of two or more elements.”

Maybe it is not that severe, but it might as well be. I sat at my desk today and spent 20 minutes formulating the perfect password, only to come to the realization that I will have to do it all over again in 30 days. Oh, the agony, the frustration, the dread!

I have 13 different systems I have to log in to at work. Each of these isolated processes requires a unique set of user names and passwords. To enter higher levels on these systems, I have to verify my identity again with a secondary password. That's not to mention all my personal accounts.

I have three email accounts, Facebook, two bank accounts, Penn Power, Comcast, brokerage accounts, 401ks, and about a dozen websites that I am an administrator of.  How can I possibly keep them all straight in my feeble and constantly distracted mind?

I have given up trying to commit these random sets of numbers, letters, and special characters to memory. I have tried using different software programs to save my precious data, but none of them have been as convenient as a good old piece of notebook paper. I have done exactly what you are warned not to do. I have made a list and posted it beside my work computer for all to see.

I have even contemplated creating a file on my laptop that has the majority of my personal account information. I, of course, would encrypt the file and bury it in an unusual directory using a confusing name, but guess what? To open it I would still need a password.  

Additionally, I don’t want all that information in once place, just in case it does get compromised.

I have lost count of the number of times I have gone through the lost password process on these sites. It feels like some kind of second-rate therapy session. They inquire about my first girlfriend, pets, the street I grew up on, and even my mother. Who do they think they are?

I would be willing to bet that I spend at least 20 minutes per day executing the log-in process to various different parts of the Internet or cloud. I wonder if I could get some government funding to produce a study to discover just how much time an average person wastes per week, or month, or year because of the need for passwords.

Over the years I've gotten lazy and simply used iterations of previous passwords. I started with easy1 for one specific account since the Great Password Gods make me change it so often.  I have worked my way through easy1, easy2, easy3, all the way up to the current easy7.  I have another account that follows the same dumb logic to appease my infantile memory and I am now up to the 17thversion of that password.

I haven't had any problems other than me forgetting these pesky passwords, but now that I am publishing this with the New Castle News and it will be visible to the entire free world, I better go re-examine my passwords now.

That is, if I can remember where I put them all.