What's The Magic Word?

Do you hate passwords as much as I do?

I detest that technology keeps forcing us to come up with new combinations of letters and numbers to do everyday things – like access our computers, read e-mail, do banking, check the kids’ grades, etc. If passwords are ever required to start the dishwasher or my vehicle, I’m doomed.

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of password meltdowns I experience in a week. Somewhere, someone is keeping track of how many occasions I click the “forgot your password?” link to a website, which would make me an overachiever – at least according to that list.

Truly, the sheer number of tasks requiring passwords boggles my mind. Even worse, we’re supposed to create passwords that are complex – using unexpected combinations of numbers, letters and symbols – rather than ones we might actually remember. We’re also warned against using the same password each time.

This is all apparently aimed at thwarting cyber-criminals. But I suspect we’re the only ones being thwarted.

I acknowledge that smarter, more organized people would keep a notebook filled with passwords next to the computer. But they’ll be real sorry when computer criminals steal their notebooks, which will never be a problem for me.

I confess to ignoring those warnings against using the same password all the time. You’d think that would make things easier but if the password is “case sensitive,” I often can’t remember whether I typed a capital letter first.

Using an identical password doesn’t work at my job, where I am required to change passwords every three months and the computer reminds me so every two months. If the new password resembles the old one, the computer rejects my choice. Believe me: Rejection by machine can be very demoralizing.

Meanwhile, I hope my co-workers have become deaf to the annoying “bing, bing, bing” from my computer each time it informs me I’ve entered an “incorrect password” at the start of the workday, forcing me to frantically search for the scrap of paper holding the latest magic code.

Someone recently told me the best password is the name of a high school flame. This allegedly not only thwarts cyber-thieves, but also the people who live with you – unless they’re the rare types who actually listened to your stories from the past.

Inspired, I tracked down my high school boyfriend and emailed to ask whether he objected to being a password. Not at all, he said. But then I became suspicious that he might try to access my bank account. Since he lives in San Francisco, my savings could be very attractive, but only if he wants to take his wife out to dinner – once.

If that happens and I desperately need to replenish my account, it's a good thing I can remember the names of high school sweethearts of other people, which is odd because I can’t recall what I ate for lunch yesterday.

But I’ll never forget the names of three former girlfriends revealed by co-workers trading tales of high school romances over a few beers after work. Three decades later, I can still remember the names of those girls. Mayadelle, Starr and Scootchie would make great passwords today. Watch your bank accounts, guys.

What do you think is a good password?  Come on, you can tell me…




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