The past is present in the present password

Thursday, 12 February 2004, 10:42 AM EST

The cardinal rule of password creation is skirting the obvious: No names of children or pets, no street addresses or car names. The ideal password is a random combination of letters and numbers, unfathomable to a potential intruder.

My computer system at work requires a password, changeable at three-month intervals, and I dutifully formulate a new one when the request is triggered by the network. I have chosen to pooh-pooh conventional wisdom, though, and enter a word that represents my current preoccupation in life. After all, my files contain absolutely nothing juicy to tempt a potential hacker, unless he is dying to know if he made the cut for my son's bar mitzvah guest list. I keep a running list of my passwords, handwritten, and I scan it each time I submit a change, and the result is my life story crystallized in one-word bites. I could use it as an outline for my autobiography, in the unlikely event that I would ever presume to write one.

By Phyllis Rudin at Globetechnology.

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