Passwords are the bane of computer users and IT administrators, and – for the most part – an open, beckoning door to hackers, scammers, and Russian Viagra spammers.
But until someone comes up with something more practical and secure, we need them.
Sure, people are trying. Fingerprint scanning, retinal scanning, all sorts of biometric stuff is either on the market or in development, but thus far there seem to be either financial barriers or security questions around many of these.
So we continue to use passwords.
I’ve written about strong passwords and stronger passwords; for myself, I do my best to make my passwords as strong as possible, but I have dozens of them, and that makes them hard to remember.
A cartoon posted by an IT colleague of mine just today points out the difficulty, especially as we grow older:
As Friedrich Althoff (not Konrad Adenauer) said, “Was gebe ich auf mein dummes Geschwätz von gestern?” (What do I care about the stupid hqiz I said yesterday?”)
Now, some sysadmins take joy in making things as hard as possible for their user base:
Having spent years in IT, Mordac is hands-down my favorite Dilbert character. Parenthetically, Mordac’s appearance has changed over the years, but I like this iteration the best because he reminds me of one of my old IT colleagues, who was paradoxically one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.
On the other hand, it drives me nuts when webmasters limit their passwords; given the nature of hacking attempts, to deliberately block users from including spaces or special characters in their passwords is inviting more incursions, and whenever I encounter a site like this it makes me want to reach through my modem and slap someone to Nouakchott and back.
So how does one remember a laundry list of passwords without putting sticky notes on your CPU? Well, there are certain encryption programs and lockers out there that allow you to keep these things written down, using one (very complex) master password to access the file, which is my preferred method. Another one is using mnemonics such as Tt*hiwwUR (sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”…) but it’s tough to come up with a whole grundle of these.
Whatever the case, you owe it to yourself to use strong passwords wherever your identity or your data is at risk. The recent massive hack at Sony is a perfect example of why (even though this may have been an inside job, which would render any company vulnerable.)
The Old Wolf has spoken.