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Password, Please

There are four words which, if you are a human who interacts with any sort of technology, encounters on a daily basis.

Enter your password, please.

Whether it’s your PIN number, email, phone, or social network, chances are you’ve got at least one. You probably have more than one, unless you use the same password for everything, which is a lesson you learn not to do after you’ve been hacked/had your identity stolen. I sure hope you do.

Most places now require a password of a certain length, sometimes case-sensitive, sometimes with multiple cases or numbers or special characters. The special characters ones are the worst. Those can be hard to create and remember, like PIMP100% or TWOGRLS&1CUP, or FR@PP$BUX3…you get the picture. At the University of Houston, they require these, and require to change your passwords every three weeks, which was a major pain in the butt. Every time I’d log-in, I’d invariably enter something like YP39*$!M before realizing that that was my password for October, of last year, and then have to try a zillion combinations before having to reset my password to something like BW^))7Z7…and remembering five seconds later that my current password was YP39*S!M (S, not a dollar sign).

Good times.

Also, most times you’re warned against or forbidden from using phrases like your name, “password,” “12345678” or “00000.” Which invariably leads to making it something like your middle name or favorite color and date of birth, which is also kind of easy for your friend to solve if he knows you and when you were born, or has a document with that information and knows you well enough. On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t be friends with that person anymore, since they’re trying to gain access to your bank account or Facebook or whatever.

I’ve come up with a foolproof plan to help you create unique passwords, and remember them every time, and all you need is a book and your computer.

First, the book. Grab the closest book to you, open to a random page, point to a word, and type that in. If it’s a word like “in,” “you,” or “the,” try again; no one’s judging you. For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to use PNG Women Writers: An Anthology, because it’s been sitting here on the couch since last night when I cited it in my English paper/blog entry, which are both of equal importance. And let’s see…okay, after two tries of getting the word “environment” (too long) and “no” (too short), I got “infested” on page 194. “Infested” is a good word; it’s got a decent number of letters, and is unusual enough that you will remember it rather than an arbitrary combination of letters.

Then, look at the bottom right of your computer screen. You have two numbers to choose from. Right now it’s 4:58 PM CDT, so I could go with that, or 3/15, which is the date. On second thought, I could even pick the page number I just used.

And right there, you’ve got three possible passwords, “Infested458,” “Infested315” or “Infested194.” Easy enough to remember, yet not obvious enough that someone could crack it by taking shots in the dark. I do it with pretty much all my passwords, and I’ve never once been hacked.

So there you have it, a foolproof password method. BRB for now – I’m going to check all the sites I’m subscribed to to check if any one of my passwords is indeed Infested458, in which case we’ve got a problem. 

But first, here’s what you get first if you Google image search that password:

If that doesn’t make you remember your new password, I don’t know what will.

Oh, and happy Purim everyone.

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That’s Not My Name

Last week, I got an email from my bank, saying that I had a new debit card on the way, and yesterday, it arrived.

The only problem?

I didn’t order a new debit card, and I sure didn’t change my middle initial either.

You know what that means…

Yep. Identity theft.

And it isn’t even the first time it’s happened.

Identity theft sucks. So much. And it can happen anywhere, anytime, even at an airport. One time, I was flying from Houston to Baltimore, and my card stopped working as soon as I got home. The reason? Apparently, I had purchased $200 worth of stuff from a Wal-Mart in Pensacola, Florida. WHILE I WAS IN THE AIR. What I’m convinced happened was, someone probably saw my credit card number when I took out my license to go through security.

But back to today. I went to the bank branch located on the west side of town, where a banker broke the news: apparently someone posing as me submitted a name change request form at a branch in Baltimore last week.

I assured her that I was here in Madison last week, and I wouldn’t change my middle initial, even taking out my driver’s license for proof. She called the bank branch, and apparently, today was the teller’s day off or something, so we couldn’t get the full story, but she did acquire the name change request form that was submitted with my information. Incredibly useful, not just to verify that it happened, but it even had the teller’s name on it. Like a mafia boss, she called the Wisconsin investigative offices to get on it. At this point, I’m picturing a bunch of men in black flying from Madison to Baltimore, holding up the bank, and demanding the truth from the bank teller. Which would probably be the opposite of what would actually happen, but hey, having imagination helps in times like this.

Anyway, I did another name change request form – and this time, I’m pretty sure it was me changing my name back – and had the card cancelled.

And on Monday, I’m flying to Florida for a week, with a temporary debit card.

Guess I better start practicing signing things Wells Fargo Customer.