published Thursday, July 25th, 2013

City Beat: I meant to call you, but I forgot the password

I read a lot of spy novels, and I'm convinced that the next terrorist plot to take over the world will involve some computer hacker who has figured out a way to wipe out all of our passwords. And, to make things even more diabolical, when and if we figure out how to reboot everything, we will all have to come up with an entirely new set of passwords for the future.

It will gridlock everything.

Right now, I have to remember five passwords just be able to use my work computer. That's five different ones. And two of them have to be changed every 29 days.

These don't include the dozens of passwords used to access movie studios, record labels, television studios and untold personal websites I use to do everything from pay bills to order lunch.

We have to remember passwords to use our phones, our televisions, our music libraries and to check on our kids' homework. I know there is an app for keeping up with them, but you need a password to use it.

I only have two children, so coming up with different passwords is a major problem. I've run through first and middle names and combined those with all kinds of variations on the year they were born, as well as the month, the day and the jersey number they wore in eighth grade to come up with new passwords.

Now, you might think I'm revealing way too much information, but we all do it, and now passwords require numbers, symbols and upper and lowercase letters, so if you can figure out my passwords, you are welcome to every cent (heavy emphasis on cent) that is in my bank account.

Some systems will shut you out if you type in an incorrect password too many times. This was not a problem a few years ago, because I only really used maybe two variations. The hard part then was remembering whether I put the number in front of my kid's name or behind it.

Since some new passwords require a symbol, in addition to an uppercase letter and some numbers, the challenge is not using them all up too quickly. I don't know when you last looked at a keyboard, but there are not that many characters that are not letters or numbers.

Easily the most secure password I have is for my router at home. The first wireless router I bought years ago came with a 16-character password, and for whatever reason, I've kept it. Should I ever lose the piece of paper the password is on, I'd be in trouble, though I almost have it memorized after having to type it so many times.

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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