Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Password Jungle

This is an actual password screen:

Is it just me who finds passwords a monumental hassle? My passwords are out of control. I used to think an internet password was like the national secret, so I had different ones for different things - I started out at the dawn of the internet (like people who remember when radio was invented) and I began by neatly recording them in a journal. How unsuspecting I was. Who knew that so many years would pass, sites would come and go and fifty billion would spring up, and that some of them would require passwords with numbers and letters and in certain amounts?

All sites have logins to remember, but some have ID numbers or account numbers--a serial number--a product key--oh and secret questions or hints--usually a drop down menu and never the same choice anywhere you go. And if you don't write down the URLs, you can lose them when you get a new PC or your hard drive crashes.

And once I got wise to making them all the same password or a variation, it was too late. Of course, being handwritten, there's no rhyme or reason to my method, so I flip page after page, trying to remember how long ago I registered, because that will tell me if the notation is closer to the front, the middle or the back.

And then of course sites change and passwords corrupt or you never find your info again, and you have to set a new one. If I've written in pen, I place a sticky over it or tape paper over it - or cross it out and write it anew on a later page, but then the listing is no longer chronological for my brain, which is still trying its best to remember old or new.

Oh! And then you're supposed to change them every three months to keep them safe! Maybe if you hold a gun to my head.

I get it for important sites and private banking accounts and things, but people, let's be real here. If I use the same password for two years...what, a criminal will send ecards from Hallmark Greetings with my account? Someone will crack my first pet's name and read my private personal New York Times newspaper archives? The mastermind of a terrorist plot will order and pay for charms using my account?

I have been trying to convince my daughter to do a spreadsheet of passwords and logins for me, and she finally agreed, but as of yet she hasn't gotten around to it. So I have this fat unweildy book to pull out and search through when I can't remember a password. And my husband doesn't get my dread or the groan when he says, "Honey, we need to choose this year's insurance plan online."


  1. Hi Cher,
    Oh, I agree. I keep my passwords as safe as possible but what a hassle! Who knew there would be so many sites to log onto, when all this started? Used to just be your banking or online shopping that needed a password, now all the sites want them!

  2. Oh and I had to put in a password to leave this comment today!!

  3. Hi Cheryl,
    Passwords - ARGH! It's like pin numbers, they all get confused. Sometimes I use the right one, sometimes not. Your post certainly strikes a chord here!
    Best wishes

  4. Hi Charlene and Carol! I got started on this topic from our discussion on the Husy loop. The whole growing dilemma struck me as ridiculous.

  5. Oh, this is SO true. I did make a spread sheet, but after all that, I've decided that it is easier and quicker just to say "send my password." I did read a couple of tips. One is to do the letters of the first line of a favorite song. And to change, you can add a number, like 1 for the first quarter of the year.
    Now I've had to try the password five times before the post went through!

  6. Hey Cheryl, my book sounds exactly like yours and I'm getting tired of lugging it around, too.

    I rec'd an ipod Touch for Christmas and have been busily downloading applications for it. Some of the apps I'm checking out are databases that include password files. My basic stalling point is that some apps need WiFi access to work and it isn't always - available. Yes, I'm leery about the security aspect but some of these apps supposedly have taken those security measures into account. We'll have to see...

  7. Cheryl,
    I can identify! :-)My 'password book' was like yours until just very recently. Now it's in a spreadsheet form just like you wish your daughter would do to yours. One site recently forced me to change my password that I've used for a dozen years because it was too SIMPLE. Now there is this gauge thing that pops up when you enter your chosen password, which tells you that the password is still too simple! The site approved my chosen password after a dozen or so...I'll never remember that many characters in a jillion years...where's my spreadsheet?
    Janet Kendall

  8. Hey, Blythe, I didn't mention Captchas. I detest them, because it usually takes me three or for times to get it right and by then I'm frustrated and ready to give up on my three line blog comment.

    Amazing, Anita. You'll have to let me know if you use an app for your ipod to keep passwords. Verrrrry interesting.

    I know exactly what you mean, Janet. Thanks for dropping by!

  9. Forgot to say that I fear I'm going to have to use the Capcha for my blog. I've had a couple major spam hits recently. I put it off as long as I could because I don't want to discourage comments.