Smoke Detector Batteries and Passwords

I was on vacation a few weeks ago and wandered into an internet cafe to check my email.  As I opened up the browser it was very clear that the last person had not logged off because I was staring at somebody’s HSBC bank page.  I quickly hit the log off button and then typed in gmail.com.  When gmail opened it was already logged into someone’s account.  Geez!  I was wondering about the careless person who was sitting there before me. I could have started a whole new identity right then and there.  I did a quick clear private data and got on with my email.

Students are notorious for using computers anywhere and everywhere. I also think students, and people in general, can be careless and sometimes forget to sign out of personal pages and fully log off before walking away from a public computer.  I would take it one step further than logging off and also delete history and clear the cache before leaving the computer for the next person. In general, it is a good policy to follow since there will be people following you and they may be more than happy to dive into your personal business if you have easily left it there for them to find.

As I was on the plane back, I was reading an article about password protection.  Similar to public computer access, I guess, people are really careless about passwords.  Who knew?  There is a flourishing industry that tries to guess passwords and get access to people’s personal information.  I really haven’t given much thought to my passwords and honestly didn’t know that most people use “password” as their password.  Did you know that?  Or how about 123456 – that is another one that is very commonly used.  I can tell you if you are trying to guess my passwords…it is not one of those.

Most people are lazy when it comes to passwords (and logging out).  For the most part, people will use the same password for every account that requires one.  I guess there are even plenty of people who put passwords on a post-it note that is usually not very far away from their computer.  Would that be you? Convenience, and as little remembering as possible, is everything these days…right?

I guess all of this got me really thinking about how much access someone has if they can guess your password.  I counted this morning and realized I used a password to access eleven different accounts when I first arrived to the office.  I also have most of those “remembered” on my computer which could be very convenient if some random person knows the ultimate password to unlock my computer.  I am guilty of using, for the most part, one password for several sites.  I am rethinking my convenience logic.

It all made me wonder if passwords should be like smoke detector batteries and people should change them at least once year.  Smoke detector batteries and passwords…a change that could save your life.

It could be a new Hallmark card opportunity…happy change your password day.

What would be the day to pick?  New Year’s day seems like a good choice to me…new year, new passwords.  Or how about your birthday?  I guess, though, every year older may be a slight reminder that getting older may mean it is even harder to remember stuff, like new passwords! Regardless on when, I have had my current password(s) for probably more than 8 years for most things…and I guess that is simply unacceptable.

If you are searching for a few helpful password resources, you may want to check these sites out:

Ten most commonly used passwords

The 500 worst passwords of all time

How to choosing good passwords

Online password managers may be a good option too

What universal day would you pick to change your password?  If you want to edit my new year’s or birthday idea and you know my password…feel free to log-in and change the day.  Otherwise, you can leave a comment below.

Just remember: clear your history, completely sign out of personal accounts and fully log-off when using public computers…and change your passwords frequently.

Happy public computer web surfing!

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