Passwords and more.

With the advent of the internet and computerization changing the way we look at just about anything including the way we buy groceries, we, in our virtually pampered lives, become overwhelmed with numbers and letters and alphanumeric sequences to remember so that theft of our vulnerable virtual identity may be averted. Before the telephone, came the intercom in the small quarters of the hospital where we lived. All it took to remember a contact number was 3 numbers, ours was 243, short and simple. Then came the telephone which created the necessity for a whole book of numbers, of course, the special ones were still remembered.

Years passed and Dial-up connection came to India. It was a revolution when it hit Aizawl. People were exchanging email addresses, carrying Floppy drives and 4-inch thick laptops were considered “hip” at the time. Sitting for an hour at the local Cybercafe costed Rs.100 or more, but it was technologically advanced so nobody cared. The connection speed was so slow that viruses were never a problem cos’ the bandwidth just did not support the download of anything beyond Kilobytes in size, and the constant DCs (Or disconnected for the younger generations) didn’t help much. mIrc was the biggest craze and was the medium where friends (and a couple of non-friends) from all over the country communicated over the now mostly forgotten “Aizawlchat”, one of the biggest Mizo chatroom ever. Since the software hardly required anything beyond 56Kbps, it was the perfect cyberstorm.

Then came broadband. It’s amazing how higher bandwidth has changed the way we look at the internet and the world. In a timespan as short as the life of Windows ME, came ATMs, lower Cybercafe rates, faster money transfer etc. In my 1st year in college, my folks had to send money through Wire transfers which sometimes took more than a week through SBIs (No Offense, Enga!), and later through Money Orders which, at least reliably, took about a week. Now, it happens at the click of a mouse, one-minute transfers.

Coming back to the topic, with technology and convenience always comes inconvenience. ATM cards, Email addresses, Online accounts, Company accounts, need i say more? There is so much we have to remember for the sake of security. ATM pins, although 4-digits, I think, are the most easy to forget. So if you have more than one account, you would probably keep a common number so that its easier for you to remember. Then you’d forget which easy number you had kept, was it your Birthday, anniversary, gf/bfs bday, vehicle number? Then like a sequel to a badly overdone slasher movie, different accounts kept coming.

Facebook, Orkut, Yahoo, Mi(sual), MySpace, Hi5, Tagged and a whole lotta other mail websites, all requiring you to remember your username and password. You’d use the same password and username on all, but you stand the chance of your identity being hacked, or so some Security websites would say. In a way, I think we, as Mizos are lucky cos’ we can use our language as passwords, which no algorithm in the world would be able to crack, kinda like the “Windtalkers”, if you would.

The worst criteria for passwords is in the corporate environments. They have a friggin’ requirement for a password! Take my company for example (Which I think is same in most companies, knowing Windows server environment!) The password would have to be more than 8 characters long, should contain a letter in Uppercase, a special character like !@#$%^&*, should not be the last one you used, should not contain your name, etc. And better still, you’d have to change your password every 30-60 days for security purposes, like creating and remembering one password is not easy enough.

So, being in the industry for well over 2 years, I’ve learnt to work around the glitch. Here’s how:
1. Make your password easy to remember (Duh!) like “Summer1!”(Notice the uppercase S)… that works.
2. Then the next time you are asked to change the password, change it to “Summer2@” (You get 2@ easily by pressing 2+Shift2) or “Summer2!”
3. Then the sequence follows as usual
4. It’s no rocket science and still isn’t as easy to remember, but it’ll do.

So finally, in a virtual world where people rip off others by pretending to offer them a Million Dollars (Or less), and yet there are still victims who are gullible enough (or plain ignorant!) to take the bait and provide their personal online information only to be duped of any amount they are willing to part with, I guess online security is one of the most important things that we need education on right now. Phishers are out in search of “phish” meat and with older and, not offensively but, virtually less-educated friends/family members surfing the internet, I guess its the duty of us, Generation X,Y,Z whatever to help them differentiate the real from the unreal (No matter how reluctant they may accept your goodwill). In the virtual world, not everyone is who they seem to be in reality, including me! Beware!

So, with CyberSecurity in mind (and totally not being swollen-headed!), please check out the video from Symantec about the (pretty impressive tho’) tool used by hackers, how they parade their conquests without fear online, dealing in malicious softwares like it was eBay on crack. You simply have to check out the part where he hacks into the XP computer from his server, it could happen to anyone, aaaannyyooonnee!! We now have a connection speed more than 10 times what we had 5 years ago, but we must remember:

With great bandwidth comes great responsibility!


8 Responses to “Passwords and more.”

  1. November 22, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I hate passwords. Correction: I hate remembering passwords. And Lord knows there are so many to remember. I had a phone banking pin which I constantly forgot, and when I switched to net banking I again forgot the net-banking password and had to call the helpdesk to retrieve it, and since I had forgotten my phone-banking pin I had to answer to all kinds of security questions. It was fun. I think I might do it again. And now they have come up with this extra password for credit card purchases which I have already forgotten as of now. And like you’ve already mentioned it’s even worse at work, I need to remember like a thousand passwords which as you said need to be changed every other month and it’s hard keeping track of which password is for which application.

    Good post, very helpful and informative.

  2. November 23, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    …no chance you might be handing out uh…free…uh copies of norton av, blackest? [beatific smile]

  3. November 24, 2009 at 11:04 am

    ‘With great bandwidth comes great responsibility!’… i like!! was it said by Spiderman’s cousin?? after all they should be a family interested in the WEB.. πŸ™‚ .. me too use a combination of mizo and english words for me password… thanks for the Summer2 pword tip though

    another “method” one can use is acronyms? out of a sentence + digits …
    Ka WordPress Password hi ka hrelo = Kwphkh2012

  4. November 24, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Nice read. I’ll let you in on a little secret by telling you how i selected my password.
    1. Take any random Mizo word and convert it onto 1337 (that’s ‘leet’) for the uninitiated. For example, if you take the word ‘Mizoram’ and convert it into 1337speak, it’s m1z0r4m. Use this as your base password.
    2. For the sake of uniqueness for each website/application, append the last 3 or 4 letters of the name of the website/application to the base password. For example, your password for wordpress.com according to this formula would be m1z0r4mw0r.
    Using this method, you can create a highly complex, yet easy to remember password which is also unique for each site/apps.

    Thank you for giving me the time to enlighten you πŸ™‚

  5. 5 NotGood
    November 24, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    @Aduhi: I don’t usually forget my ATM pin numbers, but I’m forced to remember new ones cos’ I keep losing the damn cards.. most times forgetting them in those EAT-WHOLE-CARD ATM machines, that’s why I now only use SWIPE machines.
    Another downside of passwords is when what you’ve typed gets rejected, then you’re in a dilemma, whether you’ve mistyped the right password or typed in a wrong one, if yes, then have you forgotten the password.. and it gets better when its rejected the 2nd time! πŸ˜€

    @Baruk: I could probably get you some, but then I’m too junior in the company to be an asset! They’re not gonna think twice, if you know what I mean! Hehe.. But next time you feel that any website feels kinda “PHISHY” (Pun totally intended!), check it out through this link: http://safeweb.norton.com/

    @Blind: That’s brilliant! I would’ve never thought of creating a password using that. It looks like totally random words and letters but makes complete sense to the creator. And BTW, The “With great …. comes great responsibility”, you can insert any word in the blank and get an awesome Wise Saying.. Haha.. try it out! But remember, that itself is a great responsibility!

    @Chhama: Thanks and great info with the LEET thing too. So any letter remotely resembling a number would be converted to its number equivalent, which means:
    1=L, 2=Z, 3=E, 4=A, 5=S, 6=!!, 7=L, 8=B, 9=!!, 0=o, Hmm.. but does that not give advantage to Brute Force Password hackers since they already know what the numbers stand for? πŸ˜€

  6. November 29, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Hehe I use a different password for all my accounts πŸ™‚ The secret to remembering your passwords other than using numbers at the end of one common password, is to login frequently. If we let our browsers remember our passwords, there is a high chance we will not remember them.

    And I think you missed one very important point about cyber cafes in Mizoram – Key Loggers. The last time I went home, every single cafe I went to had a key logger installed. WTF. I have lost my entire trust in the cyber cafes in Mizoram.

  7. 7 Makima
    November 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    now mostly forgotten β€œAizawlchat”?
    I think it’s now got more crowd than it ever did in our days. I even know a few people who are regular there. Mhs kum 7 vel chu ka ‘dry’ ta. login poh ka thiam tawhlo πŸ™‚

  8. 8 NotGood
    December 2, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    @Kima: Logging in frequently helps, but then, you would need to login everyday to facebook, orkut, yahoomail, gmail, misual.com, blogger, wordpress, etc.. then go for lunch, and then come back to do it all over again.. Not that doing your regular job is no less straining.. hehe
    Aizawl cybercafes were pretty unsafe back then, but our natural instinct of curiosity has led us towards a more tech-savvy internet users and that is reassuring.

    @Makima: What I meant to say was.. mostly forgotten to us, the original addicts. πŸ˜› Sure there are still a lot of chatters there, but I guess Facebook and other social networks are more interactive and appealing to veteran net users. hehe..

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