Thursday, June 17, 2004

jeremy: get smart

I know someone who uses the same seven-letter password--an ordinary word in the dictionary, no less--for everything. To me, this is as dangerous as dancing around in the bathtub while juggling several small electrical appliances. However, while I most certainly do NOT use a dictionary word as my password, I do have a password that I use in far too many places. I have never told anyone this password; it is my most closely guarded secret (well, that and my forked tail). Obviously, I should not be using the same password that I use for things like my university e-mail account for practically all of the various piddly online services that require me to establish a password even to use just once.

What is especially disconcerting is when you sign up for some service and it e-mails your password to you automatically, in plaintext. I have a slight pang of panic every time I see my password on a computer screen, in any context, rather than just the safe series of asterisks by which it is normally represented.

So, anyway, I know I need to come up with a new password, or whole passwordly scheme, and I need to change the passwords in all the Places Where Identity Theft Would Matter accordingly. I know this, I know this. And yet I haven't done it. Procrastination? No. Changing my passwords would actually be just the kind of thing I would do to procrastinate about something else. Instead, the issue seems to be that I am waiting for a good idea for a password, perhaps something so personally well suited for its secret mission that it will provide a morsel of delight whenever I type it.

Obviously, one way of solving the problem is to lower my aesthetic password standards. Still, if anyone has any password-generating strategies that they are fond of, let me know.

(As a completely tangential matter, in a recent episode of The Enthusiast, the heroine was confused by a mysterious stranger who knocked on her door and asked, "Did you put in a request about your chimneys?" The Enthusiast apparently lives in an apartment building where there seem not to be any chimneys, much less more than one chimney, much less more than one chimney in her own apartment. While she was baffled by this encounter, I am sure what was going on is that the mysterious stranger was a spy and the question was really a password. I strongly suspect that if instead of saying "No," she had replied "The pearl is in the river"--note: this phrase is always your best guess at a counterpassword--she would have been handed a dossier containing the plans for some diabolical scheme to conquer the world. Instead, we remain at peril. Thanks, Enthusiast.)

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