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Jo Wood Headshot

Passwords - A Window to the Soul?

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They say it's best to treat your password like your toothbrush - don't let anybody else use it and get a new one every six months.

Although these days it's more like having a toothbrush for every tooth. You get to the bathroom cabinet tired and grouchy in the morning and can't remember which brush is for which tooth.
My most recent app download was 'Keeper'. Inspirationally named, it quite simply keeps all your passwords. Gone are the days when we can get away with storing such secrets in our head. They're just too plentiful - too complex.

Just as I think I've found a one-password-fits-all, I register with a site demanding a password between 15 and 20 characters long, including two numbers, a hiccup and an eye scan...

What I best enjoy about keeper is, by definition, you have to remember your password to get into it, in order to unlock the password secrets to your other accounts. Head hurting, yet?
SplashData have created a list of the worst passwords - those most likely to be hacked. I'm relieved to see I don't use any of the top offenders, but I'd like to meet the people who do.

High on the list is 'password'. Really? Nothing more inventive going on up there? Could this be the entire banking world? The regulars are easy, including '123456' and 'qwerty'. They don't say how regular 'getmeouttahere' is, but I'm willing to bet an apple someone's using it.

But then we get to the really juicy ones. 'Dragon', 'shadow' and best of all 'superman'. My imagination explodes thinking of all the slightly pale, bespectacled, skinny-tie chaps settling down with their McCoffee at 9.05am and optimistically punching 'superman' into their keyboards while nodding encouragingly to themselves. Now there's a man (or indeed woman) with dreams.

So what makes us choose a particular password? I've had many in my time online, ranging from favourite confectionary to pet names and even porn names (made up of your first pet and mother's maiden name - my Dad's is 'Pussy Munro' and that's not even a lie).

Could it be during our two dimensional, strip lighting, cross-eyed existence, that our imagination, hopes, fears and desires are secretly played out like the willows of a lost dream in our passwords, the only time we get to be truly inventive, without limitations in our working existence?

It's surprisingly hard to do, having been hardwired to think in such a linear way. Ever seen a colleagues face contort, their eyes raised to the fluorescent lighting in concentration when asked to write something humorous yet meaningful in a leaving card? Hence, perhaps, the frequent use of passwords such as 'master' and 'football'. We're trying to think outside the box, we're just not quite there yet.

So, we've come up with our ingenious, personal, private password - now to keep it safe. I'm always a bit too relaxed about my passwords - especially to non-sensitive website registrations - I've got scraps of paper flying out of my purse, PostIts sellotaped lovingly onto monitors and scribbles in the corners of various Moleskine pads. But we're told to keep them safe - guard them from friend and foe alike, 'including your spouse' urges one particularly shrill website.

One would imagine a spouse could be trusted not to break into your Argos account to see what you bought them for Christmas, but a colleague of mine told recently me she had a headache with an ex who constantly hacked into her email and Facebook just to check she wasn't getting up to mischief. There's a man with issues.
So, now you know what passwords not to use, who to not tell them to and where to not write them down. You're welcome. Next time you're presented with that little box why don't you go nuts and fill it with the craziest, fruitiest, rudest words you can think of. Because let's face it, your boss'll never know...

Around the Web

Password - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Change Passwords | Create Strong Passwords | Microsoft Security

Security Guide for Windows - Random Password Generator

Password Recovery Tools for Windows