The Password is....

It was pretty simple... the first day of junior high school. You showed up, got your locker assignment and combination, twisted the dial, back and forth, and wha–la… it opened. You successfully “logged in” to your “locker account”. “Do not share your combination with anyone, and store it in a safe place” we were instructed. I do not think anyone actually wrote down their locker combination, but rather just committed it to memory. The manipulation of the lock, and opening of the locker became a subconscious activity. The next year you just started all over again.
It got a bit more complex with the introduction of the automated teller machine (ATM). This amazing little machine could dole out money at any hour and in many convenient locations. The price for such convenience? Well, one must be able to provide proof of identity in the form of the very secret personal identification number (PIN). This number must be remembered (you do not want to carry it around with you and your ATM card). Ok, so one little four digit number, not a big deal. Next, it was the answering machine. It used to be that only really important people, like doctors and lawyers, had answering machines. But soon, we all jumped on the bandwagon. For the convenience of getting your messages remotely, one only had to pay the small price of remembering another four-digit code.

The technology revolution had begun, and before you knew it, we had codes for our keyless entry cars, garage doors, security systems and office buildings. With the introduction of computers into our lives, the world was about to change. In 1983 we watched Mathew Broderick use a secret password to gain access to his school’s computer in War Games. It was a password, not a number. This conjures up memories of Allen Ludden hosting a game show on TV… where we hear a whispering voice say, “The password is …” - Why did he whisper? It was a voice over; it was not like they might accidentally hear him… I digress.

Before long the Internet exploded. We had to “log in” to our Internet accounts. Once on the Internet, a host of convenient applications tempted us: on-line banking, brokerage accounts, bill pay, cell phone accounts, voicemail, email, on-line shopping (each vendor has their own login), social networking sites, blog sites, iTunes, Netflix … You name it. The price for this convenience? Almost every site requires us to “log in”. This process doubles the problem because one must not only have a password, but also a unique username identifier.

Just stop for a moment and consider the number of different tasks in your life that require a username and password. I stopped counting at 100. We have all tried to consolidate as best we can – you know...reuse, recycle. The problem is that what may be a unique username at one site may not be unique at another. Thus we start creating a password with a number following to find a unique combination. The more adventurous mix letters and numbers and even punctuation to create "meaningful "usernames. These can be hard to remember: Was it 3lvisRox or E1visroc$ ?
Another problem is that each application may have a different security policy and require a different number of characters, caps, numbers and or symbols in the password. What works for one may not work for others.

It turns out that all this convenience is actually quite cumbersome and challenging to my memory. I have to regularly request my password be e-mailed to me…. Now, if only I could remember the password to my e-mail account.

Oh, and by the way. Experts agree that for security reasons you should change your passwords at least every six months. Good luck.