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Password is not a game

Posted 15 September 2014 12:00 AM by Cindy Earehart Rinker

When I was a kid, the only password in my life was a word-guessing TV game show featuring the hushed tones of Lee Vine as he whispered to the TV audience: “The password is ...”  

Fast forward 30 years and my life is littered with passwords. Passwords for work. Passwords for the home computer. Passwords on the tablet. Passwords on my telephone. Passwords on my bank account and every other account in my name.

At one time, “password” carried a certain mystique. The word evoked secrecy and special privileges. Now it evokes pain and special short-term memory issues that make me wonder if dementia is settling in.

So the logical cure for the problem of too many passwords is to come up with one good one and stick with it, right? Wrong! Someone cracks that code and then all of your information is in danger instead of just one site.

 Managing your passwords has become a cottage industry. Well, a cloud cottage industry. There are many options for securely storing your multiple passwords without straining your brain or keeping sticky notes all around your computer. Some of these are free, but I would recommend paying a small fee. LastPass 3.0 (Premium), Dashlane 2.0 and RoboForm Everywhere 7 are highly recommended by PC Magazine.             

If the last thing you want to do is give a piece of software the key to your digital world, then you must come up with a foolproof plan that is easy for you to remember but would be hard for criminals to crack. My best advice is to think of a phrase from a movie that you will never forget. For example: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” (Prison Warden says this to hard-headed Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke” from 1967).

Take the phrase and reduce it to the first letter of each word in the phrase. WWHHIFTC.  Replace several letters with the lower case version. WwHhIFtC. Now, replace at least one letter with a number. This case, changing I to 1. WwHh1Ftc. Finally, add special characters to replace a letter repeated in the phrase. We will replace Hh with &&. Now it is WW&&1FtC.

Obviously, this is just one password and each password should have a snowflake quality. Meaning that you recognize it as a snowflake, but you know that each tiny flake is extremely unique.

So think snowflake when you create your next round of passwords or find another way to make password changing a ritual that is not so painful. Having a security breach could be much more painful.

Cindy Earehart Rinker, formerly managing editor of a local newspaper, currently is a marketing supervisor at Shentel.