The Password Hole


Detail of frame from 'Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor' episode 8, "Twinkling Sun on a Summer Day …"

A personal note: If someone feels they need technical assistance with their computer or network, then one of the things I will need in order to help is access.

Welcome to the password hole.

In the first place, I’m not much of a techie; perhaps help desk would appreciate me if they only understood how often I don’t call them. Still, though, as a user who knows how to start and operate a computer, and even do things like update my system without help, other people occasionally think I am some manner of expert.

Rule Number One: If it is a Windows system, I can’t help.

Rule Number Two: I can’t fix it if you can’t tell me what the problem is.

Rule Number Three: There is, by tradition, no Rule Three.

Rule Number Four: Remember your fucking passwords!

These days it doesn’t really matter what it is; I keep running into a bizarre obstacle.

The first thing that happens is that someone thinks they need my help. The second thing that happens is that they forget the password that allows us access to the necessary information. The third thing that happens is that they file a lost password request. The fourth thing that happens is that they go to the backup email box to get the new password, but can’t remember the password for that account, either.

It has happened before that three hours later, I still haven’t seen the issue because I’m still waiting for access.

How?

How the hell does this keep happening?

The sad thing is that part of how this started seems to have something to do with all the advice and caution and fearmongering we’ve heard over the years about passwords. Service providers want ever more complex passwords, despite the fact that the biggest problem I’ve had in using a rotation of three passwords over the course of twenty years has been when software companies―Microsoft, Ubuntu, and Google, I think in that order―either got hacked or, in Google’s case, simply gave the information away for the hell of it.

And the only reason I have to add to that password list is because these companies’ responses to their own failures is to take it out on users; if only we had more complicated passwords, maybe the crooks Google gave away the information to would have a harder time typing it, you know?

Detail of 'xkcd' #936 by Randall Munroe, 10 August 2011.As Randall Munroe noted a few years back, “Through 20 years of effort, we’ve successfully trained everyone to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember, but easy for computers to guess.”

And this is the sick harvest. Allegedly responsible adults apparently no longer see any need to remember their passwords.

I really, really, really don’t get it.

____________________

Image notes: Top ― Detail of frame from ‘Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor’ episode 8, “Twinkling Sun on a Summer Day …”. Right ― Detail of xkcd #936 by Randall Munroe, 10 August 2011.

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