Posted by: patenttranslator | February 23, 2014

The Password Madness

 

How many passwords do you have? Can you even count them?

I can’t. Nobody can, not anymore. I have them written down on a piece of paper and there are about two dozen entries on that list.

We are forced to create a password for the newspapers that we read online, for the blogs that we write, for our iPod, iPad, and iPhone (although one Apple password for all of these overpriced gadgets will do), for all the social media where we like to frequently embarrass ourselves, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, for PayPal and our bank accounts (Do not use your ATM code for your banking password!), our Meetup profiles, our computers, cell phones,  reading devices (like Kindle), PDF files, Skype, Tumblr, Reddit, and anything else that can be viewed and managed on Internet, which means just about everything these days, except perhaps for our dogs and cats.

Fortunately for those of us who have a cat or a dog, our pets still trust us completely, unconditionally and without a password, and all they want from us are three simple things: water, food and affection. Animals are too smart to fall into the password trap.

Every time when we create a new password on a computer, the computer asks us whether we want it to remember the password. I never know how to respond. I feel like I am Laurence Olivier drilling Dustin Hoffman’s teeth in the movie Marathon Runner, while asking over and over the same question:“Is it safe?”

Numerous privacy experts are telling us that using one password for everything is extremely dangerous, that the passwords that we use should have at least 8 alphanumeric characters, the more, the better, including at least one capital letter and things like asterisk. When we create a password, the computer even tells us whether our newly created password is “strong” or “weak” and if it is deemed to be “weak” by the computer, the computer will wisely reject it.

Since things are really complicated now and the world is full of unexpected dangers, we need to write down all the different passwords somewhere because nobody can remember all of them. But we can’t store the list on a computer or our phone because somebody could hack into it!

Like most people, I have several e-mails (6 in my case, although I really use only 3 of them), and maybe two dozen different passwords. Every time I want to order something from Internet, toner for my printer, for example, I am asked to create an account and a safe password (at least 8 alphanumeric characters, including at least one capital letter and things like asterisk).

But why should I need a password to buy everything, including toner for my printer? What is so secret about that?

************

There are still occasions when I am ordering something in our highly secretive and extremely dangerous world and I am not asked to create a password – for example when I order pizza (both by phone and by Internet).

But this is because when I order pizza, they automatically create an account for me – without asking me first, with or without a password, I have no way of telling. Every pizza joint creates an account for everyone who orders a pizza based on the phone number. The account has our telephone number, our address on the map, the kind of pizza we like, and probably also what kind of tip can be expected.

When I go to have my hair cut, they also have my account already, in both places that I visit when the strange person staring back at me in the mirror looks too wild and disheveled even for my taste. Based on my telephone number, they know my name, when I had my hair cut last time, who did the deed, and the way I told her to cut it.

I don’t need to create a password there because my telephone number is my password.

The truth is, these passwords have nothing to do with protection of our privacy. On the contrary, the people who force us to create passwords do that in order to invade our privacy. Once we are uniquely identified by the combination of an e-mail and a password, the computer will automatically remember every single transaction that is connected with that unique combination – namely us.

This information is then used for aggressive advertising of the type that is practiced for example by Google. Google is throwing so much advertising at me every time when I ask it about anything, in big, garish ads jumping up and down on every page of everything I read on the Internet like an angry spirit from the netherworld that I mostly use DuckDuckGo these days. It is almost as good as Google, and the Duck does not hit me with stupid ads everywhere I go. I want to be able to read in peace.

There is a Russian proverb that says that free cheese is only in a mousetrap. None of these free services like e-mail, Internet search, or even the wonderful free “apps” on our iPhone is free. On the contrary, we are paying for them dearly, with information about our lives.

And the main reason why we need a password for everything is that the people who want to own our lives need to know exactly which life is being bought and sold at any given moment, and for how much.

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Responses

  1. my thoughts exactly…thanks, Steve, for the pleasure of reading your article…and…a bit in relation to the russian proverb i often think that we (as customers, users, etc.) are like Gogol’s “dead souls” which could be bought, sold or mortgaged just like any other item or property….

    Like

  2. @Lucyna

    Somehow, when I was reading your comment, I misread “Gogol’s dead souls” as “Google’s dead souls”.

    Like

    • @ Steve: PATENT IT!!!! 🙂

      Like

    • somehow i would call it a Freudian slip…;) cheers and stay well, steve!

      Like

  3. @ Alchymie

    You cannot patent an idea.

    It must be a device or a method and you have to described exactly how it works.

    Like

    • I know, I know.. You’ve been teaching me that for a long time already :). I had a prior WordPress identity that somehow got lost.. The Czech Republic is one clue and alchemy is another – I created and eventually lost a Museum of Alchemy in Kutná Hora :(. The death of a best-beloved dog in terrible circumstances was a major factor.

      Like

  4. @ Alchymie

    Got it.

    You must guard your passwords with your life.

    Like

  5. FaceBook is acquiring WhatsUp. How about that? You need only one password for Google & Co.

    As a freelance translator, all you need is an account at ProAds and everything is fixed with a password to ensure your enslaved Gogol’s soul for death.

    Like

  6. @Wenjer

    Isn’t that great?

    Like

  7. Really enjoyed reading your post. I have tons of old passwords here written on paper, it’s crazy.

    I’ve been using for a few years now a password combination using the same “central core” and a prefix/suffix :
    E.g. T++wi (prefix T, suffix wi for Twi = Twitter). Once in a while, i change the suffix (add punctuation sign, number or both, etc.) > T++wi14$.
    One “workaround” is to use a password manager such as Fastlane (I don’t), with a single master password.

    Like

  8. @Fred

    Thank you.

    But didn’t you just make it easier for somebody to hack into your various secret missions?

    Like

    • Hopefully not! Just examples of how i build the passwords, of course I don’t use prefix/suffix indicated 😉

      Like

  9. Well, I’ve got only two passwords. One is ‘strong’, for important sites, and one is weak, for unimportant ones.

    Like

  10. Way too many! http://www.lastpass.com has been my saviour.

    Like

  11. @Tess

    My solution: I refuse to buy anything at websites where they try to force me to create an account with a password.

    If they don’t let me buy whatever it is they I am trying to buy as a “guest” without a password and without an account (that remembers my credit card number), I go somewhere else.

    I wonder how many people do that.

    If enough people do that, it might save our civilization.

    Like

  12. I can recommend KeePass (Donationware) for password management. It makes creating, maintaining, and even entering passwords into websites rater easy (don’t store passwords in the browser). Only one password is needed to get into the software (although it is optional, I think, but disabling it is not recommended for obvious reasons), and of course, its database should be backed up.

    Still, in today’s cloud-based world managing one’s passwords, using a different password for every websites, and using strong passwords is just half of the story, the other is that the server of a specific service (social network, email account, etc.) could be hacked at any time and this is out of the user control. We can’t live offline completely, especially when it comes to our business presence, but we can be smarter about it; be more picky in what we share, and be more careful before adhering to the herd mentality, joining services and platforms and giving them our information. There is no real privacy today, but it doesn’t’ mean that we need to volunteer information.

    Oh, and last thing, there are no free things in life. Free, especially on the web, comes at a very high – although seemingly hidden – cost.

    Like

  13. “There is no real privacy today, but it doesn’t’ mean that we need to volunteer information.”

    Exactly.

    Like


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