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Friday, January 29, 2010

PASSWORDS

In this age of the Internet, we have all learned the necessity of using passwords to safeguard our identity, our credit cards and bank accounts, travel planning, etc. Come to think of it, just about everything on the Internet now requires a password, even if it's free. They can get rather voluminous and difficult to remember, particularly if you have no control over the assignment of the password. Unless we are allowed to use a single password, which a lot of people do, it becomes a real headache to commit all of our passwords to memory. Consequently, we write them down on scrap paper and store the list away so we can reference it in the event we forget them (which seems to happen frequently). We don't keep them on the Internet or our own local computer as we are frightened a hacker will somehow break in and steal the list.

Selecting a password is a very personal thing. Some companies suggest using the name of a favorite pet, a mother's maiden name, a favorite movie or book, a school mascot, or whatever. I don't believe many people use such passwords though and, instead, invent some rather interesting and unique passwords, using key nicknames, dates, items close to their heart, or their favorite character in such movies as "Star Wars," "Harry Potter" or "Lord of the Rings." Sometimes a password becomes so secretive a person may actually forget it which becomes rather frustrating particularly when it involves the processing of a financial transaction.

I find it amusing when some web pages test the "strength" of a password, meaning it should be made more complicated and as idiotic as possible to memorize. Instead of something as simple as "seabiscut," they insist you change it to "SeaBiscut9xr3" which is a nightmare to remember the proper keystrokes.

It would be nice if we had only one password, but unfortunately this is not the world we live in and also explains why we have to carry so many keys with us. You would think that someone would invent a computer program to store and maintain passwords. Indeed, such programs do exist, but I don't think many people trust them with passwords for critical accounts. The thought would be that it might secretly pass the passwords and accounts off to a third party who would then be at liberty to invade your privacy and steal your money. Frankly, you would probably be better off inventing your own scheme for managing passwords and somehow encrypting them.

If we lived in a perfect world, we wouldn't need passwords. People would respect the privacy of others and wouldn't try to cheat them out of their hard earned money. Regrettably we live in an imperfect world and, as such, we will continue to write down passwords on the backs of envelopes.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.