26. That is the number of different log-ins and password combinations I currently have in my life. I know this because I have them all listed on one document in a folder on my work computer. I realize this is potentially dangerous, that if someone really wanted to hack into my system, find the correct folder, and the correct document name, they would then have the secrets to my electronic life. But I’m willing to risk it – because I figure the number of people who really are that interested in gaining access to my LinkedIn, FaceBook, and GMail accounts is extremely limited… I just don’t live that exciting a life. Not to mention those same people no doubt have the same number of their own passwords to remember – do they really want to add mine to their memory banks?
Oh, wait… I just remembered 3 more that aren’t on that list. It really is remarkable, isn’t it? That we are asked to remember so many combinations of letters and numbers to keep our information safe? Everything we do now requires some sort of log-in. Come to work, tap in the overall system-log in to the computer. Then plug in the passwords for email, instant messenger and our customer data system. Ok, I’m ready to work. Oops, nope, not that fast – looks like I have a voice mail blinking at me – gotta plug in a code to access that too.
Take a break at lunch. Check texts and emails on my smart phone – wait, gotta unlock and log in to it first. Head out to run errands – need the pin number on my bank card to make a withdrawal. Head home, need the code to open the garage door. It really is never ending.
I simply can’t remember them all. I’m proud of myself if I can remember the passwords for the things I do every day. But the less often used access points? No way. Hence why I have my handy-dandy reference sheet. Well, handy, that is, if I have access to my computer and remember my log-in. And I’ve noticed lately the password police are getting more picky. No longer is a simple 6-letter combo good enough. Nope, now passwords need to be 8 characters long, include letters and numbers and at least one uppercase character. And the systems are getting condescending. Set up a new password, and the system has the gall to immediately tell you if your password is weak, moderate, or strong. Like if you don’t come up with something so complicated you could never ever have a hope of remembering it, than you are some kind of password weakling. Honestly, I’m not going to lose sleep over the fact that my password into Amazon is weak.
Some systems realize that our memory capacities must be on overload, because they ever so nicely offer to remember our information for us. So the next time we log on, it will pop the password in for us. Wait, doesn’t that defeat the purpose? I often turn down this offer because I know darn well that if I plug in my password only once, there will be a reason 6 months down the road when I’ll need to recall it, and since I only needed it once, there’s no way I will remember it later.
And then there are those ever-so-helpful security questions to answer when the system asks in a snide tone “forgot your password?” YES, YES I DID. AGAIN. But what happens if you don’t remember the answer to those? Childhood address – ok, did I include the word “Road” or not? Favorite color – hmmm, what was my favorite color a year ago? Which pet did I say was my childhood favorite? My palms are sweating. If I can’t remember half a dozen letters, how will I remember the answers to random questions? What will happen if I’m wrong? Will the password police knock on my door? Nope. Instead, put in the wrong password or answer the questions wrong 3 times and you are out. Literally. Bumped out of the system. Time to re-set all of your information. If you obey all the rules, instructions will be sent to your email address on record so you can reset your password. Better remember your log in for that email account! Oh, and as you wade your way through the re-set process, don’t you dare try to re-use a past password…. Because even if YOU don’t remember it, apparently the system will, and that is a big security no-no. How dare you.
It used to be so much easier. As a kid, all I had to know what my address, phone number, bus number, locker combination, and as I got older I proudly memorized my social security number. That’s all I ever really needed. It was lovely.
I sometimes have the fear that I’ll suffer amnesia… and all the information about my life will be inaccessible because I can’t remember any of my passwords. But perhaps that is not all bad…. I’d have to start with a clean slate. And I’d have a rest from all of these numbers and letters swirling in my head.