WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?

passwordDid you ever forget a password? We forget them all the time.

There are several programs that will save your passwords and other critical private information — and they promise to be uncrackable too. We dutifully try as many as come in, and have come to the conclusion that you can do just as well on your own.

There’s no such thing as a password that can’t be cracked; there’s harder and easier, but not invulnerable. Then there’s the matter of trust. If you send all your passwords and financial data to a supposedly secure service, how do you know they won’t use them? We’re not really paranoid, but we do like to question things.

For instance cyber theft, as it’s called, meaning using a computer to steal, is estimated at anywhere from $100 billion to $1 trillion a year, and growing faster than any other type of crime. That’s a really wide range. What does it mean? It means nobody knows. And nobody knows how to count it. If someone steals a new design for a computer chip, an aircraft, a weapon system, a chemical formula, what is the dollar value of that? How do you calculate it?

The number on money and financial thefts is hugely understated. Whatever number you read for that, just automatically multiply it by two to 10. Why? Because banks and other financial institutions hardly ever report such thefts. After all, displaying your vulnerability is never good for business.

The amount of money and other losses is so large, the profit so great, you have to ask, why not crack into a company or program that promises to protect that information. In fact, why not start your own, and offer free or low-cost services. We doubt we’re the first to ever think of this possibility.

So, do you trust yourself? Because if you do, why not make your own password protection? Joy puts her passwords in a simple Microsoft Word file and uses Word to encrypt it. (You could also make it a hidden file.) If she forgets a password — and who doesn’t? — she can just call up the Word file and get it.

Bob uses the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Almost every website he goes to is given the same password, something like “T42.” Lots of sites demand six or more characters in your password. OK, how about “124C41,” the famous Sci-Fi title by Hugo Gernsback. Say it out loud to get the meaning.

Finally, you can always write down a list or print one out. Put the piece of paper in a book. You only have to remember the book.

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