You MUST Remember This

Feb 3, 2012 by

Dear Readers, I need your help. I received in yesterday’s mail a notice from my brokerage firm titled “Protecting your Password.” The notice consists of a tri-fold brochure with section headings including “How to select and protect your passwords,” “Tips for fraud prevention,” “How to help protect yourself online,” “Security tips for online activity,” and, reassuringly, “Our Security Guarantee”.

Security Guarantee

Guarantee. Security. That really sounds good. I’m feeling more relaxed already, knowing identity thieves have circled virtually my home. And there’s just one small condition I must satisfy to be worthy of my brokerage firm’s Security Guarantee:

“[Brokerage firm name] will cover the amount of the funds and securities unlawfully removed from your account through a fraudulent and unauthorized online transaction in your account provided that you have met your security responsibilities…”

My Responsibilities

Uh-oh. I have “responsibilities.” Well, that’s okay; this is the age of “personal responsibility,” right? After studying the brochure, here’s what I concluded are my responsibilities to get this awesome benefit being offered by my broker:

  • “Choose strong passwords and change them regularly.” Okay. I can do that.
  • “Always use a password that is difficult for others to guess.” Goes without saying, but thanks.
  • “Use special characters and a mix of letters and numbers.” Well, okay, but those ‘special characters’ are a nuisance.
  • “Memorize your passwords, DO NOT write them down, note them on your cellphone or computer, or tell anyone what they are.” [Emphasis in original.] Well, my wife may be put out by that last bit—especially if I were abruptly to croak—but okay, if you say so.

In the same envelope as the “Protecting your Password” instructions came my shiny new ID card, its purpose being to convey my new 16-digit ID number, newly necessary—along with the password—to log in to my account. The brochure doesn’t say that I need also to memorize this number, then perhaps cut up the card into sixteen pieces and dispose of each in a different trash receptacle in sixteen far removed locales in my community, but I wonder.

A Good Password

In addition to the directives noted above, I believe the standard recommendation for a strong password is a minimum of eight characters. I’ve read at least one article recommending a minimum of twelve characters due to the growing sophistication of password-busting tools. But let’s say eight will satisfy my broker’s attorneys. So: Difficult for others to guess, a mix of special characters, letters and numbers—something like this:

F8g(kP4&

That’s a good password, I bet. You can use it if you like. I’ll devise another, and then I have to remember to come up with a replacement “regularly.” I’ll assume this means monthly?

Where I Need Your Help

It’s probably safe to assume I should take on these same responsibilities for all of my passwords. Otherwise, it may be my fault if I lose money through an online account under the control of a company that I’m paying for online services, like my brokerage firm.

I made a list of all the password protected online accounts I have where a thief could, through fraud, cost me money: Thirty-two accounts. And the experts recommend I use a unique password for each account—no repeating passwords. So I must memorize thirty-two random 8-character passwords. With special characters. If I don’t, and I’m victimized by fraud, it’ll be my fault. And I have to re-do all of this “regularly,” say every month or so.

Now I’m stressed. I recently felt obliged to check my driver’s license when asked my home address. I’ve abandoned trying to remember my cell phone number (I never call it, right?) And how many cups are there in a quart? What channel is TCM? Sure is a lot of responsibility living in the Internet age.

Could anyone refer me to a good resource for improving my memory? Or, can you suggest a service I could hire to manage my life for the first week of each calendar month so I can devote all my time for seven days (I figure it will take) to the important project of re-memorizing a new set of thirty-two 8-digit passwords? Or, perhaps I could hire a Rain Man-like savant to be my password guy? Any other suggestions? Thanks for your help.

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