March 9, 2017
What do a 65-year-old and a 15-year-old have in common? Access to the internet. In this age of technological convenience, socializing, banking, shopping, GPS directions, cooking recipes, digital downloads and information uploading is at our fingertips. Also, the fingertips of hackers, who, with split second keystroke accuracy and a few minutes, access everything about you. Everything!
Scary, isn’t it? We should be scared. Especially when we are forced to create ‘strong’ passwords we can’t remember, are advised not to write down, and then prompted to change every six months. A major pain in our technology challenged 3u//s as we attempt, and fail, to survive in a world driven by textual syntax.
Simply put, we’re not password aficionados. The two most common problem (pR()3Le^^5) passwords (Pa55wO+Ds) are the use of: “password” and “123456” as passwords. In our defense, these elementary attempts at security are screaming in protest, “We shouldn’t have to constantly create a new password for everything we do and make it so secure we forget the first few characters by the time we get to the last character!” Normally we are limited to 16 characters, however, the United States National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has suggested lengths of 64 characters in efforts to protect government and public sectors.
Dickens, our names aren’t that long. Yet, the underlying premise is legitimate concern for our welfare. Although, hackers today fall into two categories: organized crime mobs and bored teenagers. While mobsters are more concerned with stealing corporate billions our trepidation should lie in little Tommy down the street who knows just enough about us, because he Googled it, to hack into our personal life. And since a major flaw in the system requires an email address as our ‘user name’ little Tommy uses public information to find our social networking site where he posts derogatory pictures and messages. Moving on to our email he reads all our personal messages, or worst deletes them, then decides to hack Twitter and tweets racist comments. Now, while the fun is just beginning he takes a long swig of his soft drink, readjusts his feet on the desk and with keyboard in lap hacks into our Paypal account redirecting funds to our Amazon account so he can purchase the latest Hoverboard to the tune of nearly four grand. Child’s play compared to what…can, does and has happened.
Per a preventive hacking blog, over 27 million Americans have suffered identity theft, trillions of dollars have been stolen from businesses, and 90 percent of all businesses have been hacked. And it all starts with problem passwords, which easily take 10 minutes to hack when it’s as simple as six characters and all lower case. Yet, odds of not cracking passwords increase with each capital letter, number or special character used.
For example, I went to a website designed to create passwords. It generated this one for me: $n??gah’):2DC* which I will now use. (Oops, did I type that out loud.) No worries, the only character I committed to memory is the dollar sign. However, the NIST suggest businesses allow their users to create password phrases like Southwest Airlines’ General’s password “ihatemyjob1” in their TV commercial. Phrases including upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols could conceivably take years to hack, if ever. Dickens, if phrases became the norm maybe we wouldn’t be repeatedly asked to recreate them. Besides, the responsibility of securing their users’ accounts needs to rest solely on the business. We are individuals, we don’t have departments of security in our back pocket. Our phone is in our back pocket. A means of communicating for us, a gateway to ‘everything’ about us to hackers.
Yet, for techy folks whose cell phone links to their tablet, laptop, home security system, garage door opener, TV, microwave and beyond I implore you…give serious thought to creating un-hackable passwords. I can only imagine ‘ihatemyjob1’ has gone viral and is currently the new trend in passwords so don’t use it. Instead, think in terms of phrases like ‘when donkeys fly’ or, ‘if pigs had wings’…only, now you can’t use those either because this column will probably go viral. Jus’ sayin’.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…eye scans and fingerprints will replace creating and remembering random combinations of letters and numbers. Wowzer, wouldn’t that solve all our password problems! Except for one small reality check. Those only proliferate in movies.
Can you imagine…being un-hackable? $mi!3, it’s passworded.