Thursday, 13 December 2007

Remember all those passwords and user names

So many websites, so many passwords, how do you remember them? Regularly clicking the 'forgot your password' link is my favourite.

I have to have a log in name and passwords for well over 20 sites such as email, social networking, ebanking, travelcard, supermarket loyalty cards, eshopping, YouTube, Wikipedia, the list goes on.

I regularly forget on logging in what password I've used or what user name i was forced to call myself as a result of all the obvious ones being used up when i registered.

The extent of this problem is highlighted by the fact that i can point you to an article on this subject from no less than 8 years ago. This article ends with the conclusion that we're stuck with remembering multiple user names and passwords until finger scanners are routine on computers.

Finger scanners! I admit i have seen laptops with these gadgets but it's still going to be 2050, flying cars and robots before every computer has finger scanners.

Add to this that web professionals 'recommend' using different passwords for different accounts as well as non-word passwords including symbols and numbers to avoid hacking.

So what to do? Well I've had a little look and come up with some options, listed in order of best to worst.

  1. Remember them! - This is what i do. Admittedly i forget my passwords as often as I drink tea but then every site has a 'forgot your password' link.
    Disadvantages: You might have the memory of a goldfish
  2. Write relevant passwords - For each site you use create a password formula. For example, the site name backwards followed by your dog's date of birth and all o's and i's replaced with 0's and 1's. ie. Facebook - k00becaf0308 There are far cleverer formulas out there.
    Disadvantages: Break the formula and someone has access to all your sites. Your formula is so clever you confuse yourself.
  3. Use cookies - Both Firefox and IE will store your passwords as cookies so that when you revisit a site you're automatically logged in.
    Disadvantages: Because you end up having to go through the log in process less, when the time comes when you have to log in (such as when on a different computer) you've completely forgotten your user name and password.
  4. Password managers - I don't like the idea of storing passwords as you just need someone to hack the password manager and 'bang' you've lost everything but according to this Simple Website Guide article there are some safe options.
    Disadvantages: Lose all your passwords at once.
  5. Use your browser's in-built password manager - A bit more advanced than cookies, Firefox will keep your passwords in its own password manager. IE probably does this too.
    Disadvantages: Same as cookies and password manager.
  6. Write them down - The most foolish of options but according to 'Orlick', apparently they'll be fine if you lock the paper away in a safe.
    Disadvantages: Anyone finding the piece of paper has access. For example someone breaks into your house steals the safe and can assume your online identity immediately.
  7. Create a new identity - Change your name, home address, date of birth and all personal details to create a new online persona. Use 'password' for all your passwords and when someone steals your identity, who cares? It's not yours anyway.
    Disadvantages: None, it's foolproof.

From this point on i will be known only as Miss Penelope Smallbone.

Update, 8th Feb 2008: Tech giants Microsoft, IBM, Google and Yahoo have joined the board of the Open ID Foundation which aims to streamline login systems across the web.

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