My wife, Mary Ellen, is extremely concerned about identity theft and is urging me to change my passwords.
Many of the words we create to log in are what a website might call “weak passwords.” I thought I used some pretty nifty ones in the past. For example, I once used Joy1959 for my ATM account. Joy was my first girlfriend back in those days. I knew this was a very good password because even Joy didn’t know she was my girlfriend.
If it’s been a while since you changed your passwords, the sites will now give you specific directions:
- It shouldn’t be personal data.
- It shouldn’t be a pet’s name.
- It shouldn’t be a person’s name.
- It shouldn’t be a past address.
- And everyone knows you had a crush on Joy.
Then they warn: Be sure you remember your password. If you must write it down:
- Don’t write it on your wall.
- Don’t put it in a computer file.
- Don’t put it on a sticky note.
- Just memorize it, OK?
They don’t like old passwords, but I tried to revive JOY1959. It rejected it not only because it was weak, but because someone else was using it. I always suspected there was another guy back in those days. Now, I had the proof.
Then I tried my birthday. I got a prompt: Very weak, claiming it was too easy to figure out. I think I look younger than my age, so this really annoyed me. Also, no one has remembered my birthday in 40 years, so I wasn’t concerned about that information getting out.
I tried putting in BOB, who’s my best friend, but they just hated that. The prompt said: You have to be kidding.
No, I needed a strong password, so I put in HERCULES. It was rejected as weak. Then I tried SAMPSON. This time, very weak. I don’t think the people at this website have read their mythology. But it did answer the age-old question of who was stronger.
At one point, I just ran my fingers haphazardly across the keyboard.
Very strong, said the prompt, followed by, Please remember to write your new password down. Write it down? I had no idea what I typed. Was it KKDFJHG%$, or was it YQWOKW?0&?
I finally found a password that was acceptable. It was deemed very strong. Then the website asked me a series of personal questions in case it ever needed to confirm my identity,
What was the name of your first girlfriend?: (Joy. Wait, now I’m thinking it was Judy).
Your best friend’s name: (It was Bob, but lately he has ticked me off).
A strong fictional character: (Wait, wait, don’t tell me — Mighty Mouse).
Here’s my new password: J&U*HY*&^JG%^JOY. I’m giving it to you just in case I can’t remember it. Please put it in a safe place.