Have a cell phone? P.C., tablet, IPad, Mac, or Android. Then you know somewhere deep in the bowels of hyperspace habituates the ‘YOU FORGOT YOUR PASSWORD DEMON.’ It mocks as you download apps you’ll never use. It taunts-- as you join groups you’ll seldom attend. And wrings ITS cyber hands in glee as you establish accounts at Google, Yahoo, Instagram, Twitter, Macy’s, or Pay Pal. Because with each new app, group and account you’re required to create a new password. And passwords are the road kill for the vulturous ‘YOU FORGOT YOUR PASSWORD DEMON.’
The first time, I didn’t know strict rules of construction must be followed to placate the PASSWORD DEMON. Across my P.C. screen, the DEMON told me to:
CREATE A SOPHISTICATED PASSWORD
Each password must be difficult to decipher. Clever, inventive passwords have a minimum of eight (8) characters. One character might be a symbol such as #, & OR %. The letters of your password must contain upper and lower case letters. Add any numbers or series of numbers for more security. All passwords are sacrosanct.
The DEMON’S last sentence is a blatant lie. The second password I ever typed was the same password I created for my first app. As someone who has a difficult time remembering telephone numbers, addresses, anniversaries, and birthdays, why would I want to conjure up a collection of clever, inventive, and hard-to-decipher passwords? Wouldn’t one well-conjured password fulfill all my needs? I found out immediately. The DEMON did not concur with my reasoning and was awake and annoyed. My computer screen flashed.
YOU HAVE ALREADY USED THIS
PASSWORD FOR ANOTHER ACCOUNT
If each password is sacrosanct how did the DEMON know I already used that password for another account? Are various accounts sharing information? HELP! Something is definitely rotten in cyberspace. Are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. . .ll in cahoots?
Like a lemming, I complied and created a second password. Then a third. A fourth.
I diligently copied each new creation onto scraps of paper and pasted them into a spiral notebook. I planned to construct a secret file of all my accounts and all the passwords but was warned against it.
“Don’t do it.” A techie pal advised. “ Someone breaks into your computer. Finds that file They have access to all your stuff. They’ll know what you’re doing online and where you’ve been.”
So I didn’t create a computerized file. Mistake. I really didn’t have much stuff of interest. I wasn’t doing anything and hadn’t been anywhere exciting online. Though I was planning a trip to Hawaii. Which was the cause of the conflict.
Once you’ve established your password you never need it... until you do. And I did. I wanted to buy a fluorescent snorkel online for my trip to Hawaii. I thought I knew my password. I thought I remembered each symbol, each character, each upper and lower case letter I cleverly created. Only an elite cadre of the C.I.A. had any hope of cracking my secret cipher.
I typed in not one but two tic-tac-toe symbols. The middle three numbers on my Social Security card and my Marine Corps Duty Station in upper and lower case. I was proud. Confident. Able to still dodge the old Alzheimer’s. The DEMON was not satiated.
THIS PASSWORD IS INVALID
Blipped onto the middle of my screen.
A patient man, I deleted and typed again. But this time I concentrated on my P.C. screen. Immediately those annoying little black ⚫ ‘s appeared. This is the DEMON’S first challenge. ‘IT’ only flashes each letter, whether upper or lower case, symbol, or number for a millisecond. Each character appeared. Then vanished instantly. I was never sure if I was typing the correct letter I was positively sure of - was being typed correctly in the first place. Even then the BEAST was not satisfied!
CONFIRM YOUR PASSWORD
I was not daunted. I was up to the challenge. But before I ‘CONFIRMED,’ I searched for my spiral notebook and the one scrap paper I knew had my correct password. I aborted my ‘search’ after an hour; convinced my spiral notebook and the one scrap of paper had joined thousands of other spiral notebooks and scraps of paper as part of a recycling program in Southern California.
So I typed. When I finished, I could almost detect a snicker as the DEMON chastised:
YOUR PASSWORDS DO NOT MATCH
I typed both again. The DEMON admonished!
YOUR PASSWORDS DO NOT MATCH
Suddenly, I knew the problem. It was those damn little black ⚫ ‘s . I counted the ⚫ ’s on the top and bottom rows. There were nine⚫ on the top, eight⚫ on the bottom. Bingo! Problem solved.
I was positive my password only had eight characters. I deleted all the ⚫’’s on the top row and carefully typed in my password with gusto and hit enter.
THESE PASSWORDS DON’T MATCH EITHER
My neck stiffened. My left hand started to twitch. None of this was my fault. It was the eyes 👁 fault. There wasn’t one. Many accounts provide the little 👁 so you can see what you’re typing. So simple. So helpful. Of course, if you’re typing the wrong password to begin with, it doesn’t matter.
A man who can spend hours over a chess board, a logic problem, or a 1000-piece jig-saw puzzle could defeat a password DEAMON. I tried again. Now, this was a crusade. A religious, grammatical, pilgrimage. I typed slowly. One character at a time. Then hit enter.
THEY STILL DON’T MATCH
Blipped onto the middle of my screen. This particular BLIP arrived with an air of aggression.
I was certain this was the correct password. I deleted and typed again. The first two numbers of an old address, the initials of Sherry wyler, upper case S, lower case w. Sherry was my first kiss, second to last row, upper balcony at the Haight Theater, she had chocolate bon-bon lips. . . Oops, I digressed. And to confuse the most astute hacker I added the last lyric from my favorite Doo Wop song.
Here was a password that abided by every password regulation. The first time I created this password, a kinder, gentler Password Demon assured me it was difficult to decipher and probably beyond the ability of a gang of Soviet hackers. But this new DEMON was of a different ilk. This DEMON had a sarcastic mean streak. I hit enter. My screen BLIPPED then added a piercing BONG.
My computer screen remained blank. What did the BLIP and BONG mean? Was I getting closer? Was this a futile quest? I was not a quitter. I was not beaten. I waited. Staring at my blank screen. Had I baffled the BEAST?
Third times a charm. Artificial intelligence was no match for the old gray matter, I thought. This thought was a bad thought. The third attempt initiated the taunting. The third attempt angered the BEAST. After a thirty second pause the ‘YOU FORGOT YOUR PASSWORD DEMON’ twisted upward, out of the Hades of hyperspace and took control of my tablet, my password, my destiny.
THREE TIMES I’VE TOLD YOU!
You’re typing the wrong password. Oh, this a good password. Quite good. But, this is your password for … Ah, ha, you’d like to know what account this password accesses, wouldn’t you?
You can’t find that little scrap of paper, can you? You were supposed to transfer your password to a special, secret file. But, you didn’t. Did you? And now you’re desperate. You’re hoping I will give you access to all your password information, don’t you. Well that’s not going to happen.
Why can’t you remember a password with a few symbols, a few numbers and maybe an upper and lower case letter? It’s only eight characters? Did you have a difficult time when they changed telephone numbers to ten digits?
Why don’t you give up? You know you’ll never remember or find this password. I suggest we work together. What do you say? Let’s create a NEW password for this account. It’s simple. Follow all the rules. Create a new password. WRITE IT DOWN WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT. Then type it again in the box that says ‘repeat password.’
If it passes all the criteria for a good password then I’ll send you a code on your mobile device to confirm you are who you say are. You do own a mobile device…don’t you?
The DEMON went on and on. I was beaten. Embarrassed. Humbled. I decided BEATEN would be my new password. I liked the irony. A password I would always remember. I knew it didn’t have 8 characters, but I tried anyway.
YOU HAVE MADE A BAD START - THIS IS NOT A SECURE
A NEW PASSWORD
MUST HAVE A MINIMUM OF 8 CHARACTERS
I knew that. I knew the DEMON knew I knew it. ‘IT’ wanted 8 characters how about 9. I typed in BEATENMAN,
ADDING THREE LETTERS DOES NOT
MAKE YOUR PASSWORD /SECURE.
TRY AGAIN. hint: ADD A NUMBER.
I typed in 1-BEATENMAN.
A PASSWORD THAT IS WRITTEN IN THE UPPER
CASE EVEN WITH THE ADDITION OF A NUMBER
AND A DASH WOULD EASILY BE DECODED BY
A FIRST TIME HACKER.
P.S. How about showing some imagination!
Now I was getting P.S.ed and an exclamation mark from an analog.
I typed in: 1-BeaTenm+
I was smug. Feeling confident. Clever. A password with a number and symbols. A password using upper and lower case. And not a miserly 8 character. No. A password with 10 characters, far above the minimum.
My screen went blank. A long pause then:
OMIT THE CAPITOL T . . . I WILL ACCEPT
A LOWER CASE T.
When I asked why T was unacceptable, I got:
I stared at the message. Long. Hard. Something was amiss. Why was the capital T un- aceptable? It took several beats before the light went off. The synapses connected.
The neurons fired. I’d been hacked.
I googled fourth grade English spelling curriculum. And I knew I’d been hacked by a third grade Geek. I was a homework assignment for some kid in a coding class.
In my mind’s eye, I pictured the teacher, probably some twelve-year old, writing the assignment on the class chalkboard:
“How long can you keep a subject engaged before they are on to you.” Extra credit if you can persuade your subject to follow two or more instructions. My hacker was going to get an A+.
Why did it take me so long? My google search was the break through. Artificial Intelligence does not make mistakes. Capitol, as in the capitol of France is Paris, is a third-graders word. Spelling books don’t sic capital, as in a capital A, on kids until the fourth grade.
You can google that fact if you remember your password. I’d been duped! And it was a shame, 1-BeaTenm+ was good password now shared by a class of third graders. I didn’t really need a fluorescent snorkel anyway.
On my computer screen blinked:
ARE YOU A ROBOT?