Time out of mind Monty Hall hosted a TV program called, "Let's Make A Deal." The gist of the gameshow was playing with contestants who stooped to just about anything to win inane or valuable prizes. Toward the end of the half hour program Hall would often walk into the audience and ask someone to repeat his or her driver's license number or even a Social Security number. If you could do that, you would win a cash prize.
Today it takes a memory bank to recall the plethora of email passwords we use for various accounts. If you have difficulty remembering yours, you are not alone. Even the celebs are like us mere mortals searching for the password to defy all passwords, as reported in today's NYTimes,"It's As Easy As 123!@S." Excerpt.
"Just a decade ago, an Internet user rarely had to do more than enter a simple, easy-to-remember e-mail password, recycling it for every online account. But as our dependency on the Internet has grown, so has the complexity of its restrictions.
The end result: a mind-boggling array of personal codes squirreled away in computer files, scribbled on Post-it notes or simply lost in the ether. Virtually any online user without a computer science degree now seems to be one failed login attempt away from a nervous breakdown.
Worse, are the dreaded security questions, which began simply enough (“In what city were you born?”) but have increasingly “moved from the purely factual to things that would require you to have a judgment,” lamented Jeffrey Leeds, the president of Leeds Equity and a fixture on the New York social scene."
Do all these letters, numbers, icons and characters help security? Not so, say the experts. Excerpt:
"But it is less clear to cybersecurity experts that having a password with extra numbers or special characters actually makes customers safer.
“People’s choice of passwords is not the real problem today,” said Dr. Joseph Bonneau, a University of Cambridge researcher who studies cyber security. “The real problem is typing in passwords to the wrong Web site, which is stealing them.”
So why are Web sites suddenly requiring users to add special characters or numbers? “It’s security theater,” Dr. Bonneau said. “So people feel safe. It makes the Web sites seem like they’re taking things more seriously, when in fact most of them have no control if you have malware. In absence of a way to tackle bigger problems, it’s easy to add restrictions. They don’t want to seem less secure than competitors.”"
So what are we supposed to do? A few TIPS from the celebs who seem no better off than the rest of us. Excerpt.
"Courtney Love recommends using mnemonics, saying it was something even a simpleton like herself could use. “You use the lyrics to a song,” she said, for example, “ ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ — litswd-1 — and that way you can’t forget it.”
Still, she ran into trouble when she started using “Hey Jude.” “I kept forgetting if it was ‘Hey Jude, don’t make it bad’ or ‘Hey Jude, don’t make it sad,’ ” she said. “So I gave up on that.”
And the comedian Sandra Bernhard noted that a trick like this would not work for her Time Warner Cable wireless router, which comes with a preselected unchangeable password that ranges from 13 to 28 characters. “We have that one written down somewhere, but where it is I’d be hard pressed to tell you,” she said, adding that her relationship with the cable provider is “an S&M experience without the pleasure.”
Ms. Ullman recently consolidated her most important passwords on a Post-it note beside her computer. The inherent security risk of this was less troublesome to her than her sense of ironic defeat. “I thought the whole point of computers was, you were never going to have to write again,” she said."
Monty Hall would have a field day! Let's make a deal: