29 September 2006

The maddening number of passwords

This week was the close of a required action for everyone in my organization to log onto system X and input some information. System X pointed to the same username and password file as system Y, a system that we know all these folks are using every two weeks. So you'd think it would be easy for people to log into system X. Not so much. Turns out that many of the 3000 people here are letting their browsers automatically fill in their password on system Y. So many folks had no idea what their password was anymore or only thought they did.

I raise this because we are living in an impossible era. I, personally, have over 50 user IDs and password combinations. And I'm just talking computer systems/websites. Where I try to limit the variability to make it easy on myself, different systems have different criteria. Some allow no more than 8 characters. Some allow no less than 8 characters. Some require special symbols. Some don't accept special symbols. Some you can keep forever, others require updates every 60 days. And the beat goes on...

The human brain is not meant to be able to store all these permutations. I'm amazed that I can remember my ATM pin number, my credit union's phone access code, my stock broker account access code, my work and home phone passwords, and so on. Plus, all the phone numbers I call on a regular basis. Heck, some days I'm glad I can remember where I live.

I think I'm doing pretty good. But still, there's all those system passwords. The problem with not remembering passwords is that you have to record them somewhere which defeats the whole purpose of having a secure password. I have a method of encoding for a little extra protection but most people don't. It's not surprising that identity theft is so rampant. Sigh. We're doing this to ourselves!

Time to get away from all this technology and go for a walk in the woods.

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