Ahh, passwords! Designed to keep our personal information safe (the stronger the better!), my life has devolved into an ongoing, daily battle with the Password Monster, the one who pretends that it will keep your passwords safe. At this point, I almost believe that passwords were invented to make it easier for hackers to steal our stuff while keeping us locked out of our own accounts.
Welcome to this week’s installment of “Monday Malice,” aka “Things I Hate”; in this case, the object of my ire is the Password Monster.
Take it from me: the Password Monster is a real creature, a fire-breathing beast that sneaks into your devices when you’re asleep and changes your passwords in a way that renders all of your “fail-safes” useless. He might even be employed by the actual password stealers, the identity thieves who somehow manage to detect and recover your passwords even when you can’t.
Here’s a handy list of ways to keep your passwords secure while not losing your mind. Note that these aren’t all the ways; they’re just the ones I felt like posting about and, in some cases, making fun of:
5 Ways to Escape the Password Torture Chamber
- Use a password manager; PC Mag’s got a great list of the Best Password Managers of 2018; so does CNET – read their recommendations for best password managers for 2018.
- Go straight for a password generator. Check out Digital.com’s 13 Generators to Make Passwords So Tough You’ll Forget Them. I have to admit, I find the “You’ll Forget Them” part terrifying, since I continue to labor under the idiotic belief that my memory will suffice. Pro tip: It won’t.
- Keep them in a spreadsheet. No, really. The trick here is – wait for it! – password-protecting the spreadsheet. Really. And I can tell you firsthand that this works, because one time, at the office, I managed to create a password for the spreadsheet, re-enter it to confirm, and discover, to my horror, that I had managed to type it incorrectly both times. That sheet was toast; I had to start all over. So if you’re going down this route, first, be careful! And second, you’ll be burdened with remembering (there’s that ugly “memory” thing again) to update the sheet every time you update your password.
- Take advantage of your browser’s “remember me” and/or “remember my username and password for this site” functions. I’ve tried this on all of the major browsers and the best I can say is that it might work, sometimes.
- Write them down on a piece of paper – bwahaha! Not really. Never, ever ever do this for reasons that should be self-explanatory. If not, please invite me over and make sure you’ve got plenty of open credit on your credit cards, the ones you’ve saved the info for online. I’ll be right there.
How I Keep My Passwords Safe
My personal method is – whoa, you didn’t think I’d tell you, did you? What I can tell you is a little story about what made me get religion. My daughters were in middle school, and one had tricked me into subscribing to some stupid online game which cost $9.99 a month. Naturally, she lost interest in two weeks, and it took me five years to muster the courage/find the time/run out of avoidance behaviors and contact the company to cancel our subscription. Why did it take so long, you ask? Because – wait for it! – I had forgotten my password. For the math-challenged, this cost me a grand total of $589.41 (I’m giving the entire first month to my daughter for free because I’m a generous mom). I know, I know – don’t say it. But I can tell you that I learned my lesson, and the granddaughter will never, ever ever get an online subscription from me. Sorry, Emma, you’re cute, but not that cute (who am I kidding? Of course she is.).
Here’s what I really want – I want someone (not me, because then I might get rich, and I’m allergic to money) to invent a “Password of the Day” tool. This amazing tool would wake up refreshed and energized every morning (unlike the rest of us), pumped for battle with the idiot hackers of the world. Sometime while you’re sleeping (it would know that, too; maybe it could be a premium feature in my imaginary fitness tracker), it would magically reset all of your passwords at the strongest encryption level possible, and would notify all of your online haunts as well. The only glitch that I can see here is that this imaginary tool would require you to set a password meeting the following criteria:
- Contains your exact DNA sequence, translated to hex
- Includes the current number of hairs on your head, accurate to within 5 hairs
- Incorporates the exact date that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers first appeared in history textbooks
And the moral of the story is…
In all seriousness, guard your passwords. Get a password manager or a password generator or a combination of the two. Or use some other trusted method. Whatever you choose, do it. That way, you won’t have this look on your face tomorrow. You’re welcome.
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Got a funny/tragic password story? You probably shouldn’t leave a comment here about it; that might be dumb, depending on the details. But if you enjoyed this post, well, that’s something I’d love to hear about!⧉
Update: Thanks to an alert reader for sharing a link to this great advice, “8 Tips to Becoming Cyber Secure.”