The password, please: Keep your sanity and your security
Your head is aching and your eyes are blurry as you stare at the monitor. But, no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to remember if you created your password with your dog’s name or, wait, maybe it was your husband’s ...
Password fatigue is, if not an ailment, then at least a complaint. And, with it come symptoms of annoyance, anxiety and frustration.
Without the secret password, a person today can’t access his or her e-mail or work files, bank account or credit card, or even buy a coffee maker from Target.
It’s enough to make the Fort Knox vault look like a grass hut when comparing security.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Judy Branch, a speech therapist, as she carried her lunch back to her downtown Fall River, Mass., office. “My husband created a spreadsheet with all his passwords on it — about 12.”
“My passwords are usually kids’ names and dogs’ names,” said Nina Coelho, a support representative in a local insurance office. “You have a tendency of forgetting. A few passwords are OK, but when you have so many ...”
Jo-Ann Pelletier, vice president of Information Technology Services at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts, said people have to come up with their own system for remembering their passwords. If that’s not an option, there’s software that can store passwords.
“It’s especially important to come up with your own personal password,” Pelletier said. “It’s a necessary evil. There’s no magic bullet.”
According to Microsoft, passwords are the key to accessing personal information, and they’re important because if others learn someone’s password, it can be used to open new accounts, such as credit card accounts and even mortgage accounts.
Microsoft suggests using “strong” passwords, as does Pelletier.
A strong password uses a combination of letters, some in capitals, and numbers and/or symbols. The drawback is that strong passwords may be even more difficult to remember.
For that reason, a strong password should have meaning to the user, Pelletier said.
For example, if Jim wants to use his daughter Lisa’s name in a password, he might combine that with her age or a characteristic about her, such as: Lisa is 4 and is my little pumpkin. His password might be Lisa#4pump.
“If you come up with a good system of remembering, then you’re safer,” Pelletier said.
She also suggests using the same strong password for several accounts for the sake of memory.
“I just write them down,” said Colleen Mason, who works in a downtown office.
While that may sound like a good idea, Mason’s co-worker, Tracy Smith, thought a moment and said, “I forget where I put them.”
“I write them down. I mix things in my life,” said Magaly Choueiri, a speech therapist.
“There’s just too many,” Branch said. “Sometimes I accept the randomly generated ones. I find one and tweak it.”
Make a password:
Write out a sentence that has personal meaning for you and then take the first letter of certain words and mix them with numbers and symbols to create a memorable password.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America = Ipaflag#50
I donated $500 to the Salvation Army in 2007 = I$500salv2007
I have a daughter who is 17 and a son who is 15 = id#17s#15
I have a Labrador retriever who is 4 years old and he makes me smile = LR4$mile
Instead of keeping your password in writing, use hints and not the actual password.
Never leave your password on or in your desk.
Don’t use the “save password” feature for important passwords.
Never send a password or other sensitive confidential information via e-mail.
Always exit secured applications and Web sites after using a public computer.
Don’t be tricked by phishing schemes and provide personal information or passwords as a result of an official-looking e-mail.