Passwords are often described as a random string of characters used to protect electronic data from the eyes of unauthorized viewers. Experts suggest a variety of ways to protect the personal data we entrust to our financial institutions, social networks, e-mail accounts, and a long host of other services. These passwords have grown from 4 digit codes to 8 character conglomeration that are often hard to remember even after just resetting them. You know that sense of panic, “What combination did I just type? Was is Fluffy 2010 or FluffySmith2016?”
Passwords are maddening. I find that I especially dislike my Apple TV/Netflix password as I have to navigate the letter box (which is half obscured because the left side of the TV screen trails off into some no man’s land. After I master the password thing, I will figure out how to size the TV picture. (Honestly, people with bifocals or progressive lenses should be required to review all forms for companies. Three fourths of the stuff they ask to have filled out, you can’t read. But, I digress…) I’ve had my e-mail password for 10 years. I remember it because it is required at sign-in and it was a special memory. I know there is a box I could click to have the computer remember it, but I like to do the hard work myself.
It seems that most people personalize their passwords according to a wonderful article I read in the New York Times Magazine entitled The Secret Lives of Passwords . We assign trivial information about our personal lives to these keys as a way to remember the password and those special people, places or moments we hold dear. Computer experts, hackers, the Russians would all agree that these personal affectations do not qualify as random strings of characters and do not make our data safe, but we find them easier to remember because they cause us to recall pleasant thoughts. We also tend to use them repeatedly amongst our password encrypted world. Another no, no.
Recently, I returned from some travel and while away I had to re-set my phone (with the aid of the provider’s tech support). Unfortunately, the passwords were deleted. Most troublesome was the one for my home router which was installed in 2009. No wi-fi meant I was alone. Unconnected to the outside world, I may have had to read a book or something. I was relieved to know that my the lights and heat were not controlled by wi-fi.
In trying to resolve the issue, I tried every combination of pet names, dates, bfs, and sports teams I could think of but eventually resorted to making the dreaded hour and a half call for help. After running back and forth between my office and the router’s location, the light started to blink and data began flowing. It did not take long at all. The young man was so patient, helpful and very nice to walk me through the process.
While I venture to guess that most of us find remembering our passwords maddening, we all like to create them as a happy memory and they become an especially happy memory when the light blinks and connects us to our cyber world.