I was just complaining to my wife on Saturday about how all these passwords are everywhere you go now. It’s not a horrible thing. We all want to know someone’s not impersonating us or stealing our most ultimate secrets of secrets – or worse, taking all our credit information.
Before you start thinking, “Geez, dude, get with it, it’s the internets (sic,) stupid,” I get it. Really. I’ve been dealing with having a password and PIN on some sort of computerized system since I got my first ATM card back in 1977. So passwords are not a new concept. In fact, the same general rules apply today as they did back then. Rules, by the way, that the vast majority of the population completely ignore anyway.
You should never use your birthday, social security number, family member’s name, pet’s name, 1234, 1111, or significant dates like anniversaries, birthdays of relatives, etc. It all sounds pretty standard. In addition to these rules, another that’s been around since before Ferris Buehler’s Day Off is: Don’t write your password down, commit it to memory!
Since then there are rules that have been added to the list. Use a mix of alpha and numeric characters. Don’t use hyphens, asterisks, multiples of the same key (like HHH, for example) and now you should use some upper and lower case letters. Oh, and your password should be anywhere from eight to fifteen characters long.
So I have to have one of these super duper uncrackable passwords for:
My online checking account.
Each of my online bill pay accounts
Each of the forums I post on (that’s like seven or so.)
All four of my photo storage accounts on different websites.
My Forecasting World Events account.
My gamer sites, in all totaling around 12.
My Weather Underground account.
My local news station account.
The NYTimes online account I’ve had for 12 years.
All told, I have to have a password for my online lifestyle to the tune of about 45 different passworded sites.
Remember, I am supposed to commit these to memory, not write them down and use a different one for each. Holy shit, how does anyone, and I mean ANYONE, successfully follow these rules? Look, I’m 51 and considered an old timer online, having had some sort of online account since 1987 when BBS ruled the WWW. Today’s internet age scions, raised from infancy with AOL, the internet and MySpace and now Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube (shit, right, I also have a Google account and YouTube, so 47 at least!) and god knows how many bitorrent sites, social sites, and others (crap, I also have LinkedIn, Plaxo and HP, Tiger Direct, Egghead and MoveOn.org – gaaaah!) how does anyone honestly follow these rules and have an online life they can access?
Oh, but don’t you know, savvy old owl, Internet Exploder can remember your passwords for you. Yeah, except the next time you turn off your computer and restart. Then it wants you to fill in the passwords all over again. Oh, and don’t forget a few other new rules: Don’t use password recalling programs, because there are security holes in the OS which can allow a hacker to access them and then break into all your accounts.
What’s an internet junkie to do? Simple. You don’t – can’t – follow all the rules. Even so, a few sites make you put in a minimum number of characters. Some of them demand that you use at least one number and one Capital in your password. Some of them throw out words that, oddly enough, look like words. So of course, they expect your password to be this random gibberese with assorted capital letters, numbers and nothing that comes close to sounding like a word.
Remember, you’re supposed to commit these to memory, don’t write them down. And you can use your password recall program, but the makers of the same goddamn password recall program don’t recommend you use them now.
I’ll be honest, there’s no way in Hell you’re going to figure out my password. In all point of fact, I can remember most of my over 50 passwords, because a lot of them are almost exactly the same and some of them are exactly the same. I know, it’s not recommended, but goddamn it, as smart and gifted as I am, I just don’t have time or the temperament to dick around trying to remember all these frickin’ passwords. Screw the conventional wisdom and fear of being hacked. The person who hacked my account would probably feel so bad for me that they’d leave me money.
Every now and then, one of my websites decides that I’ve had my password for too long and that makes it a security risk. So it politely demands that, for my own protection, come up with a new one, you old fart. There was a time when I could simply replace a 1 with a 2 or a 2 with a 1 and problem solved. Now, they’ve got password programs that require you to make something that doesn’t have more than one or two characters from the old one. Shit!
So, it’s no real surprise that I regularly have to enter my password, trying to remember which variation on a theme I have for one of these umpteen sites, and occasionally (right now, I am averaging twice a month or so) I have to have my password reset. In fact, I just had to re-login to FaceBook and ended up resetting my password, which requires four different pages and an email to complete. Not to mention the hassle of failing to guess my own password correctly about ten times (I’m determined that way.)
I can see me doing an Andy Rooney 60 Minutes rant on passwords. Hell, you might think this qualifies. Of course, I lack Andy’s endearingly sickly sarcastic drawl and questioning demeanor. I’m just de-meaner.
I deal with it, but it does occasionally cause me to just swear up a blue norther of cussing and griping. It’s one of the few times, though, that my wife, instead of shaking her head and telling me to quit complaining, she joins in. It’s like that scene with Chris Rock and Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 4 where they start ranting about how they fuck you on your cell phone service. That’s one of the funniest scenes in the whole movie. Right up there with Leo Getz’ rant on going through the drive through in Lethal Weapon 2.
I have come to understand and accept that this is the world, the crazy, sometimes insane world, that we live in today, where the lowest amongst us has to have a password for everything we visit and partake in, that we have to have different ones (but we really don’t) and that we’re not supposed to write them down (but some of us do) and that we do this to protect us from identity theft. I get it. I don’t like it, but I accept that this is what it is.
In this world of password protections and identity theft, where we have to have strong passwords and we have to read those stupid hard-as-hell to read funky word phrases (called Captcha) in order to get into our accounts. I have reconciled myself to this. It’s the way of the world.
I don’t feel safer, though. After all, if this is what it takes to make an account and then to protect it, how come we have all these goddamn spammers and robo accounts and hackers who regularly break into some of the highest security sites in the world? All I can do is hope that I am relatively safe, as I am in the ocean, due to the extremely large surface area and the infinitesimally small speck I represent in all that. Sort of anonymity by dint of insignificance.
Predators stick close to their prey. I have no finances to speak of and thus I’m like a giant sloth in the trees, whereas the gazelles, zebra, antelope and wildebeast roam the plains, in full view of the lion. Me? I’m insignificant and unseen. As much noise as I make, I’m still nothing more than an amoeba, making microscopic ripples as regards the signals that call to predators.
In the meantime, those of you afflicted with the curse of having to reset, remember and recall your plethora of password protections preventing you from making your next online meeting of minds, please join me in a small exercise in stress reduction:
First I want you to put your hands flat to your sides, not touching your keyboards. Now take a nice, long slow breath, taking the air in through your nose. Inhale slowly, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and hold, hold, hold and release breathing out through your mouth. Repeat this one more time.
Now breathe in one more time as before and when you feel you can’t take in any more air, do what I do:
Primal scream therapy helps reduce the stress of dealing with this sort of frustration. It will also scare the bejeezus out of anyone in earshot, so please don’t do this at the work place or around nervous people.
Maybe I should have made a disclaimer sooner?