Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

Passwords are necessary, but not without some drawbacks

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If you want to walk the heavenly streets of gold, you gotta know the password.

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— Coach Bear Bryant

My wife, our home accountant, will periodically demand my attention at the kitchen table with updates on household domestic policy. She involves me (if only for legal reasons) because modern life is complicated.

“You need to pay attention to these things,” she will say “because if something happens to me, you have to know how the bills are paid or where our money is.”

Which is all a roundabout way to bringing up The Codebook.

The Codebook is a sort of rough cheat sheet that I’m sure you have at your house.

It is several dog-eared pages of typing paper that contain lists of passwords and access codes to what appear to be about 40 bank, cellphone, auto dealer, computer, electronic device, credit union, department store, hotel and travel club accounts.

There are even the passwords we are supposed to verbally share with the security company if we happen to accidentally set off the home alarm system.

Some of these passwords have clues, you know, the trick questions only you would know the answer to.

My wife once told a savings institution that my “favorite food” was “steak.”

“I like steak,” I later told her, “but I wouldn’t say it was my favorite.”

“If you want your money,” she said sternly, “it is.”

Because she set up most of the accounts, she got to choose most of the passwords, which seem to start off with a common theme – the names of her childhood pets. Because clever thieves might somehow discover what these long-dead critters were called, however, she reverted to creating passwords out of random letters and numerals that more resemble the serial numbers on the back of our microwave.

Then there are the codes and passwords connected to the college accounts of our son – now a university sophomore.

Although the school will cash frequent checks from us without hesitation, it appears reluctant to share the higher learning achievements (grades, etc.) in which we are investing.

Only through parental pressure upon our son and the threat of withholding such funds, have we been able to piece together enough information to reasonably monitor his academic progress.

While I appreciate this and all other security efforts, it is not without its drawbacks.

For instance, about two years ago I called the government to obtain a Social Security update.

“What is your mother’s maiden name?” a bureaucrat asked me.

I told him.

“That’s wrong,” he said.

“No it’s not,” I answered sharply. “I’ve seen my grandparents’ tombstones and you haven’t. I’m pretty sure I’m right.”

“That is not what we have,” he replied, and I angrily hung up, thinking the government is run by idiots.

But guess what? I was poking through household papers a month or so ago and found my birth certificate. There was my mother’s maiden name and IT WAS MISSPELLED, as some military hospital typist had slightly, but significantly altered it six decades ago.

I immediately felt bad for being a jerk to some long-suffering civil servant.

I immediately felt like I should make it up to him in some way.

I wonder if he likes steak?

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/19/13 - 07:59 am
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Absurd Passwords

A couple of the places I work require me to access about 5 different systems with passwords BEFORE I even start to worry about my work that day. The password concept has gotten out of hand. We all go against the rules and keep our passwords (and user ID's) on cards which they tell you not to do. Lose the card and the system is compromised. It's absurd.

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