Mr.J.Lakshmi Narayanan, Deputy Office Superintendent, Central Excise, Salem is the author of this article
While thinking seriously about the gconnect article on “passwords” (click here to visit previous article on passwords) and about the everyday human struggle with ‘passwords’, this article is written, albeit humorously.
“I know your password, it’s star, star, star, five times (*****) !” beamed little daughter of my brother, looking over my shoulder, as I typed my password in to the computer. That was few years back. It is the happiness of finding other’s ‘secret’. But this innocence and naivety is long gone. Now she has created her own mail id and a password with the help of my brother. Now she negotiates… with my brother “You know my password, so tell me yours!” Else she will ‘read’ the fingers and find it out.
Think of the computer world. You just can’t do anything here without a password of your own. It’s like a passport to the cyberspace. Those good-old days, you had a single password, which was your spouse (or girlfriend’s) name and that was it. For many years ‘password’ used to be the password! And for many uncomplicated souls, it was ‘abc’ or ‘123456’. Better ones beyond the LKG level in computer knowledge improved it to ‘iocl’ to show their loyalty to company they worked for.
With the advent of internet, you can’t do with just one password. There is a password to boot your PC (Power on), one to logon to the network, one for your mail id (multiplied by the number of mail avatars you have), some more for your Internet Banking Sites, some for your social networking electronic spaces, so on and so forth. You can have ONLY one password but if someone cracks it? This anxiety leads you to bring in creativity in generating ‘strong passwords’. Now you are sure, like having a large lock and key to protect your interests.
This lock & key business brings to our mind the number of keys we used to have in the yester years. Especially, when we go temples we see a ‘key-man’ who sports a bunch of keys of varying gigantic sizes weighing few kilos. The temple locks are REALLY BIG! When they lock the doors of the sanctum sanctorum, I used to wonder whether they intend to ‘protect’ the God from us or prevent Him from running away.
Be that as it may, the password must have come from our insecure past. An electronic version of the ‘lock’ costs nothing. But the problem continues. Those days they searched for the misplaced keys physically, nowadays, we search for the password in our long-forgotten memory. If you had more locks, you end up having more and more keys, always puzzled to find which one fits where. Same is the case with more passwords.
Going further back in the past, we find that the earliest password was used by the good old Ali Baba to crack the 40 Thieves’ secret cave. But passwords have come a long way from the simple ‘Open Sesame’. And if you were sleepy while changing passwords it’s like the famous Abhimanyu of Mahabharat. Only difference is that he could not come out, and you can’t get in!
The younger cousin of password is the PIN. If you thought of the safety pin, you belong to Generation ‘Ex’. The ‘Y’ (younger) generation knows that it is Postal Index Number. For the ‘Z’ (youngest) generation, it is Personal Identification Number. Here you need to remember a set of numbers, difficult for people who are weak in figures. Due to this, the dates of birth and anniversaries have suddenly become memorable for the gentlemen. But with PINs, IPINs, TPINs, life pricks (not sucks).
For instance, with money-spewing machines (ATMs), if you can’t remember the PIN, and try more than the required times, they will ‘swallow’ your debit or credit card. Then, you have to approach the banker to recover the card and a fresh PIN which will come through the age-old postal system, now re-invented as courier. I should mention also here the gconnect’s article on safe Internet banking and use of secured passwords. You can visit to that articles by clicking here
In their penchant for making tricky passwords which are undecipherable (what a word, this can itself be a password), some computer geeks have made passwords with a combination of alphabets, symbols & numbers such as rich@2009, lucky#8, etc. If you can’t recall the one you ‘created’ with all creativity, there is help available ‘Forgot Password?’ at every site asking for a personal question, such as ‘Which colour you like?’. They don’t know that people’s likes & dislikes change quite often.
There are some do’s & don’ts to passwords. For instance, it should be so many characters long; should not be a word from the dictionary, so that automated decoders cannot crack it. Once received by mail, you should change it immediately and should not write it and keep somewhere but memorize it. Some software forces you to change them periodically. You should remember to forget the old one and should not forget to remember the new password you just gave in a hurry. Confusing? Forget it…No no.. I mean, “Don’t forget it!”