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I Worried I’d Forget This Topic. . .So I Wrote It Down

March 2, 2021

They change the password every couple of weeks. But, I know where they write it down.

– David Lightman

I’m a security guy. Part of job, a big part of my job is keeping my client’s data safe. We plan multiple layers of security. We have lots of physical security. We have card readers and man traps and big intimidating black turnstiles.

In addition we have computer security. The agents’ computers are pretty locked down. We have hardware security, we have software security; anti-virus, anti-phishing, anti-hacking, port security, disabled ports, restricted IP ranges, whitelists, blacklists.

And, of course, our agents have to have strong passwords. They log in at least three times with multiple passwords and at least one of the logins uses multi-factor authentication.

It literally is a secure as we can make it.

The entire system breakdowns if someone gets an agent’s password. So, it’s very important to keep them safe. they are required to create strong passwords and changes them regularly.

A strong password is complicated. It’s typically at least 8-12 characters long. Although, ironically, it’s harder for a software program to crack a short password than a long one. But, honestly, new computers haven’t caught up to the latest encryption schemes. None of the modern computers is going to crack your password. Once the Quantum computers come online, we’ll all have to create new passwords. Also a strong password will have a mix of letters and numbers, upper and lowercase and some special characters.

It makes the password hard to guess. You know what else it makes it hard to do?

It makes it hard to remember.

War Games, featuring the above referenced David Lightman (played by a young Matthew Broderick) came out in 1983. Computers were new and passwords were even newer. The passwords that the school computer in War Games used would be considered silly today.

  • Biffer
  • Handle
  • Effort
  • Points
  • Double
  • Pencil

And worse still, the passwords are written down. And written down in a known location. I could talk about lots of ways to successfully write down a password. That’s not really the point. (Just one example, is to add a number of extraneous characters to the beginning, ending or both. Only you know what characters can be ignored.) I don’t think the office staff at El Segundo High School were trying to be that clever.

But, remembering your password, correction, your passwords can be stressful. If you are one who is prone to anxiety, it can be downright scary. It’s why people write down their passwords. Still. 40 years after War Games showed us what a bad idea it was.

I’m older now.

I work in computers all day. I work on networks. I use multiple websites. And I worry that I will forget. . .something. What if I lose my shortcuts? I don’t remember the actual address of my mail account, or any of my tools, or lots of things. Some of the addresses I intentionally don’t include some of my sites in my shortcuts. I have to type them by hand. I also don’t save passwords in my browser. I have to reauthenticate every time I reboot.

Like many people I have a pattern for my passwords. It’s a phrase with some numbers mixed into it. But, I worry what will happen if I forget it. Suppose I get old and, you know, forget stuff. I can remember my childhood phone number, but I can’t remember my the cell phone number I had before my current one.

I remember my childhood dog’s name, but I don’t remember the name of the website that I use for my writing classes.

Blog anxiety is real. I really did write down the topic for today so that I wouldn’t forget it.

Like the officials at Ferris Beuller’s high school. I put it on a post it. . .so I woudln’t forget.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

  1. Christopher M Stafford permalink

    Have you looked into third-party password managers? BitWarden, LastPass, OnePassword, etc.? It really helps with managing the zillion passwords modern life requires, and lets you easily set different strong passwords on every site you use. I setup LastPass multiple years ago and I can’t imagine ever going back to having to remember all the different logins for all the different sties I use.

    • Yeah, I had lastpass for awhile. I should probably reenable it. My issue is that I don’t really trust computers, or networks or social media. Pretty much if it runs on silicone, I’m suspicious of it.

      I’ve worked in computers since the 1980s. The more I know the less I trust.

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