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Gary Borders: Thoughts on organizing, protecting a mess of passwords


We live in a world filled with passwords. The only folks who don’t have to remember a plethora of passwords are those lucky enough to avoid the seduction of the screen. The rest of us have passwords for accessing our email, bank accounts, credit cards online, Facebook, Twitter, on and on.

I started counting up all the passwords I possess and stopped at 19 — and doubtless missed some. The proliferation of identity theft, and the fact that both my wife and I have had credit cards hacked, forced me to get serious and change passwords regularly. I do not use the same password for everything. That is just asking for trouble. I really do not want my email account hacked, let alone my bank account.

How do I remember 19 passwords? I don’t, of course. I am unable to recall what I had for dinner last night, have bought the same book twice on more than one occasion, and am terrible at remembering movie titles. I have a list of passwords stored electronically. My system is simple: I store them on my phone and desktop computer under misleading headings, such as “Abbie’s homework.”

Hah! Surely you did not think I would actually tell you the filename of where I keep my passwords. Let’s just keep that little secret to ourselves.

Usually, I change the assigned password when first signing up for whatever entity is requiring one, but sometimes the assigned password has a certain elàn, and I hold on to it. For example, the other day I was assigned slimmusk35 as a password. I don’t hesitate to make this password public, since it involves a site that nobody would be interested in hacking. There is no money involved.

Slimmusk35. It has a nice ring to it. I need to add it to the list.

Apparently, some folks have not gotten the memo about changing passwords often and not using something blindingly obvious. SplashData compiles a list of stolen passwords every year, and then ranks them in order of popularity. In 2015 the top stolen passwords were, in order:






Seriously? Now, if any of you out there are using one of the above passwords for anything substantial online — like a checking account — you best check to make sure money is still in your account. There are evil people out there who do not want to make an honest living, and would love to steal yours.

In the past week, I have gotten two scam attempts via email. One read:

Dear Gary,

            This is to inform you to appear in the Court on the March 24 for your case hearing. Please, do not forget to bring all the documents related to the case.

            Note: The case will be heard by the judge in your absence if you do not come.

            You can find the Court Notice in the attachment.  


            Alfred Callahan

            District Clerk

A zip file was attached. I was not about to open it. The email address turned out to be from Hungary when I Googled it. There are no district clerks named Alfred Callahan that I could find. I have no court cases pending.

A few days later, I received an urgent email from a business acquaintance. He had gone to Philippines on a last-minute visit and his wallet and luggage had been stolen. He needed a loan.

I have met this fellow at most twice. I would be far down the list of folks he would contact for a loan if that were actually the case. Another scam.

It is sad to know that some people actually fall for this foolishness. All it means to me is it is time to change some passwords.

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