Password Paranoia

Sometimes I get the odd feeling I’m Sandra Bullock. No, not the Sandra Bullock of Miss Congeniality - I wouldn’t be beauty contest material without serious botox administered by a true artist and, even then, my boobs wouldn’t look right - although I have received the very occasional compliment on my nipples. The Sandra Bullock I’m talking about here is the one from The Net: on-the-run, afraid, deeply suspicious and increasingly paranoid. And how did Sandra get this way? Someone stole all her passwords.

So far, this hasn’t happened to me but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t and I’m determined to avoid Sandra’s fate. But how? I seem to need passwords for everything these days. I have passwords for my computer at work and at home; a password for my employment file and another for my Blackberry. I also need a password for the internet at home and yet another for my e-mail. Then there’s the bank, online newspapers, software registrations and updates and local theatre groups, even LL Bean if I want to use the ‘express check-out’.

All this would be fine if I had any kind of memory at all but as I get older my ability to remember things at the drop of a hat, like my brother’s name or the way to work, is getting a little dodgy. I’m pretty good for the things I use everyday, like my work computer, but for some of the rest, gosh! Even the helpful hints questions that some sites use create problems. Damn these people for asking about my mother’s maiden name anyway. And, did I really tell the New York Times the name of that boy who sat next to me in geography class in 1966, a name that I can’t quite recall now along with his face?

Probably like most other people, I’ve taken to writing passwords down. But where to write them? What if thieves broke into my place intent upon disrupting my life, just like they did Sandra’s, and got away with my passwords? So I write them here and there, in old address books and on pieces of paper kept between pages 242 and 243 of The Brothers Karamazov and beside the entry on veloutĂ© in “The Parisian Peasant’s Guide to French Sauces” - or was it bĂ©arnaise?

It also doesn’t help that, to keep myself doubly secure, I never note exactly what the password and user name are for. That will fix those identity thieves. And, of course, me too. I’m always running across anonymous passwords and user names, like the ghosts of people I can’t quite place but I’m sure owed me money.

Sandra, in real life, probably has someone to remember her passwords for her, someone that she pays and keeps close at hand for emergencies. And she probably has another person she really trusts to keep an eye on that person. In the password protected age, nobody is really safe.

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