Is the Password to Grandma’s Basement “123456” or “password”?

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I enjoyed the article about Gnosis hacking the Gawker website & revealing how apathetic users are about using passwords. There are so many sites requiring a password to “become part of the community”, that it’s quite easy to get password burnout. But “123456”? Really? I understand the temptation. Many times in the last 20 years, I’ve found myself staring at those annoying red letters that announce my failure to join the correct user name with the correct password. I now have a fairly simple, but secure method to generate a unique PW for each individual site, which allows me to remember them easily. No more scribbling pws on yellow stickys – something my 80-year-old father still does “just in case”. He has a healthy disrespect for technology, despite spending 5 hours a day on-line.

In an attempt to further simplify my life & connect with the on-line community, I try to keep the same user name & avatar (now a gravatar…). That way, all the same people who comment on the NYTimes, NPR & BBC sites can recognize me in the Comedy Central forums too! The problem comes when someone else has sneakily acquired it first, & I have to modify it.  I’ve also had issues when the sign-in is an email address that’s not my primary email.

Usually, I’m OK, as long as my browser picks up the pw correctly. Not all sites let me save info in my browser, nor do I want all of it in my browser! I get around this by keeping bits & parts of this info in various files on my system. None of this is any help, however, if I’m attempting a log-on from a remote site!!

Earlier this year, I password protected the administrator ID on my son’s netbook,  using a combination of letters, numbers & symbols – in what I thought was a fairly simple phrase – in order to keep it safe from teenage hacking fingers.  Now, despite the “hint” I set up, I can’t for the life of me remember them! I’ve even tried doing an algorhythm matrix to test all the probable combinations I might have used… Massive fail. Now I can’t access the security OR maintainance features… or upload new, protective firefox add-ons. What I get for being so clever, I suppose – defeated by my own cunning!!

(UPDATE!! 1/2011. My cleverness returned with the new year, I realized there must be a back door in XP Home for all the other idiots who’ve done the same thing… Found it! Also finally pressed the right button at the right time, to get into SAFE mode. It’s one of those computers with a proprietary start-up; it doesn’t have that old fashion black screen. I, once more, have the “Mommy hacker of the House” crown…)

I also use numerous add-ons which allow me to browse fairly anonymously. My next step is to set up a rotating proxy, which is about as far as I am willing to go – there’s just not that much I have to hide & so much time I can devote to dealing with privacy & security features.

Meanwhile, we continue to be bombarded by the convoluted saga of stolen, leaked government documents, Julian Assange’s trumped-up Swedish charges, bail or no bail, Anonymous attacking “anti-wikileaks” sites, etc….

So who needs to spend time on privacy & security features??? Repeat after me – “The US Government”! A very low ranking soldier (what is he, a private?) is accused of up-loading bunches of supposedly sensitive documents from Afghanistan to wikileaks. He’s probably not the same guy responsible for the latest 250,000; there are probably quite a few leaks in that dam. Here’s one of the big problems – these documents were in a place that’s security is roughly equivalent to boxes in my Grandmother’s basement. She wouldn’t let just anyone in the front door, but there were at least 3 half windows downstairs. Like anyone was going to want diplomatic cables, right?

Now, it turns out that most of them are really, really just trash. The “what are you doing Tuesday night? Let’s have dinner” sort of trash. Why do you think only a few have been released? How long will it take to sift through a quarter million potential junk mails, in order to find something actually interesting? As an scientific information specialist in one of my former lives, I spent LOTS of times sorting through confidential corporate documents, most of which were exactly the same sort of trash. Much sympathy I have for the wikileaks sorters!

Why is so much trash considered “confidential”, “classified”, “secret” or “top secret”? And if it’s so important, why is it in Grandma’s basement? Here’s my theory: It’s been shown that government correspondence suffers from “over-classification”;  those red stamps are so pretty! Government officials are notorious for thinking anything they do is much more important than it actually is. So, the ones in charge of security know most of it was completely drivel, and, as such, didn’t think it was worth extra-special security. By this, I mean “security that a high school graduate can’t hack”…the equivalent of using a password more secure than “123456” or “password”. Unfortunately, that also means worthless paper is mixed with documents that truely might be important (or embarrassing…)!

Even though Grandma would never let a stranger through her door, she invited several of these sweet young leakers in. After all, they were her grandchildren’s friends. Some of them may have even been her grandchildren… She wasn’t aware of it, but she really did need help cleaning out the basement!!!

Thank you, Mr. Assange & wikileaks.

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