The futility of passwords

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I don’t know about you, but I peak in remembering about 5 different passwords. After that they all seem to get fuzzy when and where I should use them.

So I spend some time at websites resetting my password to the newest password that I am using. In the decade of using passwords, I have about 50 different passwords that I have used. However I mostly use 5 passwords and that is sometimes due to the silly nature of website authentication.

Isn’t passwords on the Internet a mess? The bank that I use won’t allow punctuation or special symbols. Isn’t that silly? So I must have a unique password for them. Another website requires 12 digits, so I have an extra password for them. Most sites require 8 digits with a mix of upper/lower and punctuation. Those are normal. One site required a 16 digit password. I rarely visit them. I can’t remember the site because I always had to reset the password.

I have tried systems like OpenID and using Yahoo/Twitter/Facebook login. Those help but still are a terrible way to authenticate. Generally when you do that, you give those places rights to tweet or communicate in your name and give up some privacy. Not worth it to me, so I normally create an original account. What makes authentication worse is when sites have enforced usernames that are all upper case or lowercase. Why not give people the most flexibility instead of being so proprietary.

The older I get the less I am tolerant of proprietary formats and processes. I think the growth of open source has made people more sensitive to vendor lock in, and push against that. It is strange therefore, that we seem to embrace vendor lock-in with Apple. Clearly they have clever products, but is that enough to safeguard our choices and liberty? I do not think so.

So what do passwords protect us from? A cynic would say unemployment. By using them, we ensure we have a job. However the real truth seem to be that since passwords can be cracked, they are a poor security choice. Passwords would be great if people’s memories were better. However since most people use the same password for everything, it becomes more of a security risk than less of one.