The Password Is…

There was a TV game show many decades ago called Password. This popular game show was hosted by Alan Ludden. He died in 1981. He was married to Betty White who, last time I checked, is still very much alive at 94 years old. Lovely Ms. White holds the Guinness book of record for the longest female career of any female TV actress. Password was a game back then, now it is a memory test.

Passwords used to be a thing only very rich people had to remember. In those days they were called combinations, as very rich people had very rich things locked in devices called vaults. These vaults were embedded in the walls of their mansions, though they were cleverly hidden by a large paintings hanging on the wall.

Thieves would find them easily and using a stethoscope to look like an emergency room doctor, they listened to the tumblers and opened those vaults. They would steal everything locked away, and occasionally even take the painting, to let the owners know they were thieves who also appreciated good art.

With our new fanatical desire for security, and a constitutional right for privacy, the need to hide things is becoming more serious. Nobody hides things under the bed any more.  Nobody vacuums under the bed anymore either, but we don’t live in a vacuum, so back to this important commentary on personal security.

My first exposure to the need of privacy happened in high school.   Every student was given a locker to put the things in. The word locker did suggest the need for a lock. The sales for combination locks at the local hardware store were brisk. The cool thing about these little locks, is each had a secret combination that only you and your very best friend knew. That password to entry was most people’s first password memory test. Occasionally the school would use a hacksaw on your lock to remove the 5-month old ham and cheese sandwich you had left there after your neighbor reported a dead skunk in your locker.

Business executives had filing cabinets with locks to hide the company secrets. Rarely did the bandits who stole from your vaults visit your office, as most of the criminals weren’t as curious about your profit margins and volume discounts as you were.

Passwordmania really took off with the advent of the home computer. Once people got their own computer in the house, it was decided that once you master Solitaire, you were ready to avoid people altogether and allow this machine to do all your talking for you. Every program you used insisted that you safeguard your information with a password.

The banks got into this new technology by inventing something called a Personal Identification Number. PIN numbers are only four numbers, because research showed that human beings can only remember 4 things at a time. This is why families with five children tend to not to give that fifth child a name.

Security experts suggest you change your passwords every three to six months. This strategy fails because nobody can remember the new password after replacing this code too many times. This would be like changing your spouse every six months. Trust me you are not going to remember your new spouse’s name after doing this a few times.

Real estate agents invented peculiar looking locks that have a password and hold a key, This is what security experts call the double security approach. A password and a key is about as tight as security can get. This approach offers a heightened sense of comfort which I believe is the reason for this current real estate boom.

Many of us have a coded pass card to get us into our place of employment. If strategically used, forgetting that pass card usually gets you a day off work.  If you can forget it for five days in a row, you can enjoy an undocumented week of vacation.

Movies suggest that fingerprints or retina scans are the safest form of passwords. In every movie I see, that uses this type of sophisticated lock, the hero of that movie bypasses those locked doors with relative ease. I suspect this is just plot device to move the story along. Who wants to sit in a theatre, watching computer programmers decode heightened security locks for two hours?

Choosing a password is one of the most exciting things to do. This memory test has exposed a surprising human weakness. “Password” is the number one used password in the English speaking world. “123456” is second and “qwerty” the consecutive letters on the top left of your keyboard is third. Pet names and children’s names dominate the more creative choices to secure your sacred information.

Hack is a relatively new term. We used to use this word to describe the most untalented person you knew. In prison HACK was the Horse’s Ass Carrying Keys, as a description of the incompetent guards. Cyber criminals have popularized a new meaning for this word, through their efforts to steal your stuff. This is a very lazy approach to thievery, as the felon just sits at their computer cracking codes, while they hope people liked the pet pictures they posted on Facebook. Organizations like Wikileaks have attempted to make stealing a noble pursuit.

I miss the good old days when the villains would approach you, ask you to politely hand over your wallet, your purse, your jewellery and if you were royalty, the crown on your head.  I don’t mean to get nostalgic here, but being a participant during a live bank robbery, is far more exhilarating than getting your bank account compromised.

The effect of the necessity for passwords is exhausting. Currently I have passwords to access Apple TV, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, my bank card, my credit card, multiple email addresses, my home security system and the liquor cabinet when guests arrive. Fortunately I use the same password for all of these.   “HarryPotter1” seems to satisfy most of the complicated demands of using capital letters and numbers. I appreciate one should not give out their passwords, but since nobody reads my blogs, I am feeling pretty secure that my secret code is safe.

Security is important folks. Insecurity is also important, but that is why there are social media sites where one can  post everything you do, as a way to convince others you are a very interesting person.  If you have any concerns about your safety, remember that there are security cameras and phone cameras everywhere. If you lock your keys in your car, people won’t help you, but your entertaining attempts to get into that car, will go viral on YouTube.

Cue the Bong:  Yes I wrote a song with the word “Hack” in it.




2 thoughts on “The Password Is…

  1. This was a very funny and entertaining essay. Have you ever wondered if you should write a book? Oh, now you have told me your password for the liquor cabinet all I need now is your address. A word of advice. If you use the term “PIN numbers” you are actually saying “personal Identification Number numbers”

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