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Usernames, Passwords, PINs and Secret Handshakes

April 14, 2005

If you're like me, you frequently suffer from password panic. It's a chronic affliction.

I went to pay my Verizon bill online today. When I followed the link from my reminder e-mail, I was asked for my user name and PIN number. PIN number? I don't remember having a PIN number with Verizon. Last I remember, I had a standard password, which I've been using for years. (No lectures on changing passwords for security purposes, do it too.)

Finally, bewildered, I asked Verizon to "remind" me what my PIN number was. They sent a text message to my phone about three milliseconds after I clicked the "send new PIN" button on the Web site. Problem solved.

Modern security experts tell us NEVER to write passwords down. Someone might see them! Don't use obvious PINs and passwords, either. Someone might guess them! Unfortunately, I'm seldom the one who can guess them.

What these experts haven't acknowledged yet is that most of us are suffering from a complete password, username and PIN overload.

My standard password is alphabetical. For a straight user name and password set-up, I'm usually OK. When an account asks for an alphanumeric password, I'm sunk.

Many of us pay the vast majority of our bills online, do our banking online, view our credit card balances and home and car loans online. We have work e-mail accounts, home e-mail accounts, and a throwaway Yahoo! account we keep for interactions with a high spamability factor (ordering from catalogs, for example). Many of us carry wireless devices that are password-protected. We all have ATM accounts and work and home voice mail. I regularly get reminder pops from a multitude of companies that some bill or other is due: cell phone, cable, phone service, electric bill, car loan, mortgage, car payment, credit card payment, shopper's club renewal, insurances and various other periodic payments).

Additionally, many of us buy from online merchants or subscribe to online publications that require user names, PINs and passwords to operate.

Let's say that, on average, only half of these companies allow you to determine your standard, tried-and-true username and password. That leaves you with rougly 10 to 15 instances each month when you have to reach into your memory for the correct combination of identifying user name or account number, plus PIN or password.

Right. Most days, I'm lucky to remember to close the car door before I start driving.

I long for the day when biometrics becomes a common, everyday method of determining I am who I say I am. matter how feebleminded modern life makes me, I'm pretty sure I will always remember to take my eyeballs, fingertips and larynx with me in the morning.


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Comments to Usernames, Passwords, PINs and Secret Handshakes

  1. RE: Usernames, Passwords, PINs and Secret Handshakes
    james perez :

    i have a verizonwireless account. i also have a online password to get access my plan detail. unfortunatley, i also have a password for when i call in!!!!!!!!!!! for the life of me i cant remember either one. someone help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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