Passwords — I may have to start swearing


don’t swear — much. But I did today. Not out loud, though. For the fourth time this week, I was forced to come up with a new password. I tried the family friendly PleaseNoNotAnotherPassword first, but it was too long and didn’t contain the required symbol and number. So out of sheer frustration, I typed in #1 and the swearword that had just popped into my head. I’m not sorry, either. It made me feel better and it will be easy to remember.

Of course, I also needed a username. I’ve never understood why the username on every account isn’t … well … the user’s name. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s an account number or a phone number. And sometimes it’s your birthdate, your weight multiplied by your height or the last lottery quick pick you bought.   

Today it was an email address. Unfortunately, I have three of those because the spammers keep finding me. That has further complicated my online existence. I recently spent several days doing battle with an account that somehow had two of my email addresses and therefore two usernames. I don’t know how that happened, but most likely username had made a user error.   

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a technophobe like me more than those four little words: “wrong password or username. So, which is it? The password or the username? I’m so impressed when a tech person on a TV show breaks into someone’s account by guessing their username and password. I can’t even guess my own.

I don’t know how many usernames everyone has, but I read that the average American has 100 passwords. For once, I’m above average. As of this writing, I have 109. And lately it seems like I’m asked to create another one every day, because a password a day keeps the hackers away. But I’m running out of ideas. I may have to start swearing more.

I must not be the only one struggling with this issue. According to Wikipedia, “password” and “password1” were among the 20 most commonly breached passwords in 2020. Those were clearly created by desperate people who were fresh out of ideas. There were no cusswords on the list, so I think I’m safe with my newest one.

Despite also making the list of most breached passwords, “123456” is still used by 23 million account holders. If that’s your password, go change it right now. I’ll wait.

None of this would be necessary if it weren’t for hackers and identity thieves. I have a little daydream where they all suddenly need passwords and usernames to start their cars, turn on their televisions, open their refrigerators and use their bathrooms.

A friend told me he uses a password manager to make his online life easier and protect himself from the bad guys. At first, I thought that sounded like a great idea. I pictured an efficient, handsome young man who would sit quietly in my office until I asked him to create a new password or remember an old one. Maybe he could also do some cooking and light housekeeping.

But no. My friend said a password manager is a computer program that generates, stores and remembers passwords for you. If I used one of those, I’d only have to come up with one username and one password. That would be grand — until I forgot them. I think I’ll hold out for a time when an eye scan or even a thumbprint is all I need to access all my accounts. Then all I’ll have to remember is which thumb I used. 

Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including “I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better.” Contact [email protected]

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