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Ali Baba had it good. In medieval Persia, one password was enough.
Imagine Ali nowadays, having to modify the magic words once a month. From OPEN SESAME to oPen1sEsame%. Hieroglyphics are back in fashion.
I recently tried to log into my online bank account (or was it Centrelink, health insurance, superannuation, the ATO, email, Twitter, Facebook or any of the dozens of “services” for which I now need a password?) and received the following gibberish masquerading as a message:
The password supplied does not meet the minimum complexity requirements. Please select another password that meets all the following criteria: is at least 8 characters; has not been used in the previous 9 passwords; must not have been changed within the last 2 days; does not contain your full name; contains at least 3 of the following 4 character groups: English uppercase characters (A through Z); English lowercase characters (a through z); numerals (0 through 9); and non-alphabetic characters (such as !,$,#,%).Type a password which meets these requirements into both text boxes while standing on your head, tapping your nose, rolling your eyes and robotically repeating - “The world has gone certifiably bonkers!”.
Can’t they just scan my teeth or take a toeprint?
The average citizen now needs the memory of a computer to remember all their passwords, presuming they can remember the password to that computer.
Out of sheer desperation and memory overload I have taken to writing them down, which strikes me as ironic and counter-productive given they are intended to protect my security. But I have no choice. I can only store so much in the cluttered space between my ears.
It’s a similar story with PINs. Far too many. I am beginning to think that PIN stands for PROLIFIC IN NUMBER. Credit card, mobile phone, alarm system, frequent flyer membership… My wife and I only have a joint bank account so we can remind each other of the PIN. Unfortunately, she wasn’t with me at Sydney Airport recently.
Before boarding a flight to Cairns, I decided to buy my young daughter a present. At the shop counter, when prompted for my PIN, my memory went black-hole blank. I raised my head, narrowed my eyes and scanned that space between my ears. The shop assistant tapped her painted nails on the counter.
As though recalling a song from the 70s, when the number finally surfaced I forgot its sensitive nature and unwittingly voiced it aloud while keying it in - 6, 1, 9, 8!
Boarding the flight a few minutes later, pink gumboots for my daughter in hand, I realised the shop assistant had both my card number and PIN and could shout herself some new nail polish should she wish.
I fastened my seatbelt and rang my bank.
“What’s your password for the account?” the tele-teller asked.
That space between my ears is even more cluttered than I thought.
A dozen security questions followed as I attempted to prove I was me, something I even doubted myself at one point. The only time in history I needed my flight to be late it was, of course, ahead of schedule. A steward had me hang up before I could answer all the questions. The shop assistant had three hours to splurge, depending on headwinds.
My problems with passwords aren’t restricted to planes. Cars cause me similar headaches. I purchased one recently, complete with handsfree Bluetooth as standard. It took a matter of minutes to sign myself up to years of repayments but a full ten days for the dealer to remember the password to the Bluetooth. First, they tried four zeros. Then four ones.
“That’s what most people use as a password these days,” said the bemused dealer, who would never have got a job at News of the World.
Passwords are ruining my life, overcrowding my brain and ensuring there is no room left in my head for high school French or wedding anniversaries.
Like Ali Baba, I now have just one password for everything. I know it’s foolish.
Those 40 thieves will have a field day.
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