Those of us who were fortunate to have had a blissful and less complicated childhood without cable T.V., would surely recollect the Doordarshan days. Aired on Doordarshan was India’s first English-language game show, a word-guessing game called What’s The Good Word? It was about guessing the key word with a list of related clues. The show was such a raging success that it ran for almost 15 years from 1972 to 1987. Today we still play this game in our daily lives but the game has emerged in a new avtaar!
You must be wondering what the present day version is. It is passwords, of course!! With our virtual existence far surpassing our real one, we are having to deal with a barrage of passwords on a daily basis. As children, we heard of something akin to a password in the story of Alibaba and the 40 thieves; saying Open Sesame ( Khul Ja Sim Sim in Hindi!) was quite thrilling back then! But now as adults, remembering passwords is nightmarish.
Passwords are all pervasive now. It starts with the mobile phone. The password in this case could be alphanumeric or a pattern lock. With the mobile phone figuring next to oxygen and water on the list of essentials for life, you can imagine what would happen if you forget the password or the pattern lock. Accessing your mobile phone under such circumstances could be quite challenging.
Internet Banking also involves a plethora of passwords. The reason for numerous passwords and security features is not difficult to understand – especially with cyber frauds on the rise. However, remembering these is an onerous task. It is not advisable to write them anywhere. Thus, your poor mind has to remember them. The trial and error method does not work if you suffer partial/temporary memory loss as the internet banking facility gets locked after three unsuccessful login attempts. A higher tier of security is the profile password which is needed for important operations like adding beneficiaries. There is every chance that you will forget this. The hint questions turn out to be red herrings as you seldom remember which one you chose for profile password recovery.
Your misery only gets compounded when you are asked to change the password periodically with a caveat that previous passwords cannot be repeated. The conditions laid down with respect to the length and composition of the password too make the task of setting and resetting passwords daunting. Most sites and online services insist that the password have at least 8 characters which must be alphanumeric (with both the upper case and the lower case for alphabets!) and have special characters as well; it almost seems like asking for the moon! Resetting the password taxes your grey cells further. I remember running out of ideas for setting new passwords. Luckily (!!), my house help kept changing very frequently (that is another story!!) and so every three months a new name was readily available to be turned into a password.
The agony of remembering multiple passwords is many a time so unbearable that there are some of us who use the same password for all accounts. Cyber security experts would be appalled at this proposition because it is like handing your locker keys on a platter to a thief. Therefore, there is no choice but to be ingenious. May I also mention here that sometimes there is a two step authentication needed; so a One Time Password (OTP) with a limited validity is also sent on the registered mobile. Even this does not make the authentication process foolproof, say cyber experts!
The one password that rules the roost in today’s virtual existence is the wi-fi password! This becomes critical when you are on the move or are staying at someone else’s place. You hate to ask for it but cannot resist the temptation of using free wi-fi. Online schooling has also accentuated the importance of the wi-fi password. There was a time when children did not know what wi-fi was and how internet was to be accessed. Today, because of online schooling, they are more tech-savvy than they should ideally be. On a more serious note, as discerning parents it is imperative that we have a strong password for the desktops and laptops being used for online schooling.
Having poured out my heart about the woes of remembering and resetting innumerable passwords, I can only say that they are a necessary evil, which we have to live with in today’s digital world. The moral of the story is that you may curse passwords but do remember them – at least the critical ones – for your own well being and security!
2 thoughts on “What’s the Good (Pass)Word?”
My favourite reading in TOI used to be the ‘Middle’; that was a short slice-of-life piece in the middle of the editorial page. They have discontinued that. Your such articles remind of that. Thanks, it was delightful reading.
A gadget savvy friend advises me there are several good ‘Password Managers’. You can store all your passwords there and secure that with one Meta password. So this hacker only needs to crack only the Meta password, and it is ‘Khul ja sim sim’. All passwords are his for copying and pasting.
I have chosen convenience over risk. You know what it means. When I forget a password at a petrol station, the helpful attendant creates a new password, and advises me, ‘Save the password’. Now it is there, you have to just click it. The bankers say fraud takes place only if a customer compromises his data. What is his option? To remain forever locked out of his hard-earned money?
Thanks, AKji, for the appreciation! I do like to alternate song blog posts with a slice-of-life piece. I would also read such middle pieces with great interest for their dry wit. The Jugular Vein by Jug Suraiya used to be one such middle piece I would read.
I feel our experiences about the small things of life are pretty much the same. Thus, what I write would appeal to the readers, as they can relate to it. I pick up mundane activities like even boiling milk (!!) for my posts.