By Lee Coppack, London
Remember &!*$*%!. That’s how characters in comic strips used to swear. Today, it’s one of your ever changing and expanding list of passwords. Have you included a capital letter? Special characters? No, you cannot use that because there is a logical sequence of three letters or it’s a Poisson distribution algorithm.
You probably have a dozen or so passwords that protect access to sensitive information such as bank accounts, insurance policies and investments, plus a multiplicity that you’ve had to make up to buy airline tickets, order a book or subscribe to a news service. Then there’s social media.
This virus like multiplication of passwords is likely to become an important issue as more internet users become oldsters and not just oldsters, but often singletons, too. If we are seriously ill, how can someone else manage our affairs when everything – probably including newspaper delivery – is behind a password wall?
We should have powers of attorney and our attorneys should have the documents or know where they are, but it’s not clear how will they get access to our bank accounts for funds or cancel the car insurance without a lengthy process unless they have the passwords.
You may have written them down your passwords somewhere, hopefully not on sticky notes on the computer or neatly indexed by account in a little notebook labelled passwords that sits in the top drawer of your desk. I write down the sensitive ones in a cryptic way, so anyone wanting access to my bank account will need first to know the zip code of my brother’s previous address, my father’s name and my first school.
My first thought is secure storage in the cloud, but that would need another password! And since I write about cyber security from time to time, my confidence in putting all my passwords in one place isn’t great. In the insurance industry it’s called concentration of risk or more commonly, all your golden eggs in one basket.
I had been thinking about spending time as an oldster developing an app that would enable me to disable call management systems remotely from my own phone. Although I still believe this is a worthy objective, but it would be more useful to create a social enterprise that would help us look after our passwords securely in a form that the few people who should be able to get access to them in an emergency can do so. Anyone interested in a project?