Structuring The Perfect Password, Or At Least Giving It A Go
By: Dick Wolfsie
Mary Ellen is extremely concerned about all the identity theft and is urging me to change my passwords. I’m the worst at thinking of new passwords and worse at remembering them and even worse at recalling where I hid them. I don’t think things could get much worser.
Many of the words I create to log in are what a website might call “weak passwords.” I’ve been accused of having a lot of things: a weak chin, a weak stomach, even being weak in the knees. But having weak passwords? The nerve!
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 a word in the dictionary
- 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 CAN 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, okay
They don’t like old passwords you have previously used, 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 have the proof.
Then I tried my birthday. A big red flag came up and the prompt flashed: VERY WEAK, claiming it was too easy to figure that out. I think I look younger than my age, so this really annoyed me. Also, no one has remembered my birthday in 25 years so I wasn’t real 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 was so frustrated that I couldn’t come up with a simple acceptable password, I just ran my fingers haphazardly across the keyboard.
VERY STRONG, said the prompt. 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 so that they could prove it was me if I forgot the word.
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.
– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@ aol.com.