Representative image of a password | Wiki Commons
Representative image of a password | Wiki Commons
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Google wants users to stop reusing their passwords. But remembering the one specific to your need is like remembering the fourth decimal of the pi value. You know its thereabouts, but not quite.

In an interview to TheVerge, Google’s senior director for account security Mark Risher said, “Passwords are one of the worst things on the internet.”

The article pointed out almost 52 per cent of internet users reuse the same password for multiple accounts, according to a 2019 poll by Google and polling firm Harris.

I couldn’t agree more with Risher; creating passwords and then remembering them is the worst. I know how many birthdays of family members, friends, and random personalities I’ve had to track down to come up with a unique ‘strong’ password.

Even the man who invented passwords thinks it’s time to get rid of the system, claiming they have become a “nightmare”. Things have only worsened during Covid-19, as increased dependency on digital devices has also coincided with a rise in cybercriminal activity.

Ever had that moment when you hid something so well that even you can’t find it? That’s me, with every password. I marvel at how I manage to type it in correctly a second time,while verifying a changed password. I often immediately reset passwords, forgetting if I used a $ or S or s.

Sometimes, thinking up a new password, or setting up answers to security questions feels like a writing plot for a mystery novel.


Also read: During coronavirus crisis, get rid of your passwords


How many grandmothers or pets does it take to remember a password?

Some of my favourite article headlines are ones about remembering passwords. “10 memory tricks for creating safe and easy-to-remember passwords” — you know what you’re getting, it’s utilitarian, and doesn’t really require reading through the entire article once you’ve got what you need.

Then there’s — “How to Remember a Forgotten Password”. Any decent editor knows a good ‘How to’ or ‘Why did’ headline is a hook that works on curious readers.

But these two are the real click-baiters: “Don’t be an idiot — here’s how to store and remember all your passwords”, and “How to remember all your passwords without actually memorizing them”.

Yes! Please tell me how to remember all my passwords without memorising them, and how I can not be an idiot who resets one every other day.

Today, any kind of online or technological activity is preceded by having to punch in a password — whether it’s an OTP for a shopping site, a complex garble of letters, special characters and numbers to a bank account, or a connect-the-dots drawing to unlock your phone screen.

If you have a fancy security system for your home, or tijori, then godspeed. You’ll really be in real trouble if you can’t get into either because you forgot whose birthday you granted the esteemed honour to: Was it the birthday of my second or third pet? Wait, was it even my pet?

After being locked in for weeks, I visited an ATM a month after Covid sent us scampering indoors. As was the practice, I produced my ATM card with a flourish and gently slid it into the card slot. Beep, bop, boop, and few other button pushes later, I reached the security pin leg of the exercise. And then I blanked. Spectacularly.

I worried if I thought too hard, I’d override my muscle memory. Ding! “This transaction has been cancelled.” On second try, after repeating the whole process again, I reached another “ding!” If I got it wrong a third time, I’d be locked out of my account. After weeks of hoping it’ll come back to me, like a long-forgotten song or useless trivia fact, I finally gave up and set a new passkey. (Thankfully, I remembered my password to my netbanking account.)


Also read: On World Password Day today, find out how to keep data safe and hackers at bay


Get organised

More tech savvy folks, or people with Dory-like memories, have put their trust in password managers. Colour me sceptical, but I’m not that convinced about trusting all my precious passwords (Netflix, Amazon, Instagram, and the works) to a third-party entity. And if you happen to forget the one password to rule them all, not even Gollum’s crazed tenacity can help you.

It doesn’t help that some entities force you to change your password every few months, like HDFC’s net banking system. Many such entities, in fact, keep track of passwords used, so you can’t just flip back to previous passwords.

Apart from reusing passwords, a lot of people trust the password managers of their web browsers. This is where Google has been working to change things up with a rather revolutionary streak — it wants users to stop reusing passwords. If they had it their way, we’ll never be able to reuse a password.

If the answers to security questions were really my mother’s maiden name or my first high school, that is barely going to take effort for any decently skilled hacker to crack.

One could go old school, and use pen-and-paper to keep a log of all passwords. But then you’ll need it handy wherever you go. I know! Take a photo, dummy. Next thing you know, it’s been uploaded to the cloud and is just as vulnerable.

Ultimately, there is no easy answer to the password conundrum. You are either blessed with the memory of an elephant, or a goldfish. You have either adopted every grandmother in the family, or created your own language like Tolkien. Or you discover profound meanings to significant words in your life, like the fact that my name translates to 626272 on a traditional number pad. It’s safe to say that that’s one password combination I’m never using.

Views are personal.


Also read: TikTok caught spying on iPhone users in India and around the world


 

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1 Comment Share Your Views

1 COMMENT

  1. Clickbait headline. This whole article is a rant on passwords and there’s very little mention of what or how Google intends to make sure we can’t bewust passwords.

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