Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
By Shampa Dhar Kamath
28th October 2012 12:00 AM
As a die-hard thriller-lover, I’m a self-proclaimed biometrics expert. Touchless fingerprinting for streamlined entry, facial matching, iris-recognition technology—I can hold forth on them all. Of course, a dishy protagonist helps. The sexier the hero, the more attention I pay; the more bizarre the technique, the more faith I vest in its plausibility.
From safe-breakers, I know that finger images can be filtered by sex, age and hair colour. From forgers, I’m aware that the speed, velocity and pressure exerted by the hand doing the signing are as important as the shape of the signature. From jewel thieves, I’ve learnt that heat detectors can be fooled by placing glass between them and the intruder; that an ultrasonic motion detector cannot be tricked by wearing padded clothing but holding a bedsheet elegantly in front of you can do the trick.
My deep knowledge of virtual entry notwithstanding, currently I’m in a bit of a spot. I’ve been locked out of my savings bank account owing to an incorrect feeding—three times—of my Internet password.
It’s not really my fault. It’s not easy to live in a world where you wake up to a universe of passwords each morning. I need a battalion of them every day to start my laptop, retrieve messages from my office number, open my work mail account, Gmail account, savings bank accounts and my mother’s bank accounts, as well as to keep up with the world on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Then, there’s the taxi service, frequent flyer mile checking, and flight and social activity booking user names and passwords to be remembered. I’m beginning to understand why Jason Bourne lost his memory.
What’s even worse is that one is supposed to change the username/passwords every 45 days or so to guard against identity theft. Is it any wonder that my bank password has danced away from my mind, to the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind?
The only way to be on top of the game would be to write all the information down in a safe place—but, as we know from the movies, there’s nothing called a safe place anymore. You could always mail all the data to yourself, but what if someone hacks into your mail account? If online experts are to be believed, our passwords are the most hackneyed, insecure things about us; that cracking them open is no mission impossible. Anyone who knows us just needs to put together a combination of our birthdays/anniversaries/children’s birthdays or names, and voila, the goodies are on the house.
For those who like to keep things impersonal, ‘123456’ is apparently one of the most popular passwords—with six being the most common minimum required length of a password. In cases where no lower length limit is specified, the password of choice is—wait for it—‘123’. Another chart-topping password is ‘password’. Those who like to live on the wild side, go with ‘password1’.
Talking about the wild side, ‘monkey’ remains a popular password, according to password management company SplashData, which has recently released its annual Worst Passwords list for 2012. New entries on the list include ‘ninja’ and ‘welcome’. ‘Iloveyou’ has moved up two slots while ‘trustno1’ is down by three.
I’m waiting for the day when waving and winking at my monitor will get me into my sites of choice. Meanwhile, let me try and remember the password for the mail account that stores my bank manager’s coordinates.
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