Way2many Pa$$word$


Lock in Alexan­dria Bay, NY State, U.S.A

I work in a cubi­cle and it’s fairly com­mon to over­hear phone con­ver­sa­tions. When I first started work­ing there, I would always hear my co-workers beg­ging IT Ser­vices for help: “Can you reset my pass­word?” “Seri­ously peo­ple”, I thought, “how hard is it to remem­ber vari­a­tions on your birth date?”

Well, it turned out that it is harder than it seems because at work, like at home, pass­words rule our lives.

At work, I need an ID and a pass­word to log into my com­puter, another one to check my voice­mail, a third one to log into the employee por­tal, and a bunch of sep­a­rate pass­words to book a meet­ing room, to unlock my phone and to check the voice­mail on my cell. Gone are the days when you could cre­ate one mas­ter pass­word and use it every­where: all of our pass­words must be dif­fer­ent. They also have to be at least 10-character long, have upper­case and low­er­case, num­bers and spe­cial char­ac­ters such as “+” or “%”. Damn. I guess some vari­a­tion on the name of my first crush is not going to work.

And not only you have to come up with these super strong pass­words, but pass­words expire every three months. And the new pass­word must be dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent from the old one, oth­er­wise the sys­tem doesn’t accept it.

This is why we spend an insane amount of time either try­ing to get a pass­word reset either bang­ing on the key­board with frustration.

I could mem­o­rize my IDs and pass­words at work if I didn’t have an impres­sive num­bers of pass­words at home too. I have a PIN code for my debit card, another for my credit card, and two dif­fer­ent pass­words for online bank­ing. Now, when I pay bills online, I also have to input my “per­sonal ver­i­fi­ca­tion code”, which is just another fancy name for a pass­word. Last time I called my cell’s cus­tomer ser­vice line, I was asked to enter my “per­sonal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber”. “Which one is that”, I asked the cus­tomer rep­re­sen­ta­tive. “Is it my four-digit PIN?” “Of course not! This is the num­ber you set up the first time you call cus­tomer ser­vice”. “But I’ve never called cus­tomer ser­vice before”, I pleaded”. “Then I will leave a mes­sage on your voice­mail with your new per­sonal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber. Wait, you DO have your per­sonal code for your voice­mail, right?”

I’m suf­fer­ing from pass­word over­load. I know pass­words are sup­posed to help me—after all, they pro­tect my pri­vacy and per­sonal infor­ma­tion. And there are solu­tions. At home, I have pass­words for all the web­sites I reg­u­larly visit, as well as for my blog and my email—but thanks to a smart Fire­fox plu­gin, I save them on my per­sonal lap­top that no one else uses. I guess it’s not great security-wise but it beats writ­ing down all of my pass­words, some­thing a lot of peo­ple do.

Indeed, this pass­words over­load is extremely con­fus­ing to the aver­age user. Pass­words expire on dif­fer­ent sched­ules, and var­i­ous com­puter sys­tems have dif­fer­ent require­ments for the ren­der­ing and length of the pass­words. Pass­words are some­times ran­domly assigned—good luck mem­o­riz­ing some­thing like “765A&?%$b”!

And in addi­tion to pass­words, you some­times have to deci­pher captcha and answer a pre­vi­ously set up secu­rity ques­tion. When I was abroad, Yahoo! insisted on mak­ing me type the secu­rity code dis­played each time I logged into my emails. My bank required me to set up three secu­rity ques­tions with unique answers and ran­domly prompt them to me when I check my account online. This is annoy­ing. I feel like yelling “don’t you rec­og­nize me? This is me, hello!”

This irony of all these secu­rity mea­sures is that the aver­age human is not pro­grammed to remem­ber a gazil­lion of obscure pass­words and IDs, and that sooner or later, we all tend to write them down. Besides, ide­ally, the best pass­words (a ran­dom mix of upper — low­er­case, num­bers and spe­cial char­ac­ters) are hard to remem­ber. If given the choice, most peo­ple choose to use some bits of per­sonal information—birth date, address, nickname—that are, in the­ory, easy to find out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for tech­nol­ogy and secu­rity. I’m just scared one day I’ll be locked out of my life, that’s all.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I have the same prob­lem and with time it’s get­ting worse. There are more and more pass­words to reme­ber and they become more and more complicated.

  2. @Yogi — I feel the same! And I don’t work for national secu­rity either. We do deal with sen­si­tive info at times but I’m not sure it jus­ti­fies all the passwords.

    @Gabriel — I should be more care­ful too. A while ago, I started using stronger pass­words. I’m sorry it hap­pened to you!

    @Jeruen — I think most pass­words can be cracked unfor­tu­nately. The key is to not make it too easy.

    @London Caller — Lucky me, I only need one pass­word for online bank­ing. I don’t think I could deal with 3!

    @Em — You have no idea! 😆 There is always a spike of Help desk calls around that time.

    @khengsiong — I read some­thing sim­i­lar a while ago. I was going to try it but that would require me to change my exist­ing pass­words… not sure I want to do that.

    @Nui — I know, hol­i­days seem to erase my pass­word memory!

    @Sidney — Well, I’d def­i­nitely lose weight 😆

    @Zunnur — Secu­rity ques­tions can be tricky too because some are case sen­si­tive, some require entire sen­tences etc.

    @London Caller — Ah, wrong one then! It really looks like the French one.

    @ApollineR — Glad to see I’m not the only one!

  3. I hear you on the pass­words. I for­get many of them and have the same issue and no I don’t like writ­ing them down either! And then when you can’t remem­ber them, you are up a creek… They need to invent a bet­ter secure sys­tem! Now how?!!?!?!?!?!

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