Log in Subscribe

What's the password?

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 6/3/21

If I had to make a list of the top three items I could not live without, they would be my cell phone, computer and the ragged spiral notebook hidden in my desk drawer.

The spiral notebook …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

What's the password?


If I had to make a list of the top three items I could not live without, they would be my cell phone, computer and the ragged spiral notebook hidden in my desk drawer.

The spiral notebook contains all the passwords I have had since I began using modern technology. Many of them are for gadgets that I no longer use. I suppose I could cross out the ones for my Commodore 64 computer and Palm Pilot cell phone.

But since those passwords mutated into many of my others by changing a few letters or numbers, I will keep them in the notebook for old times' sake.

Back in my youth the only password I cared about was the television game show “Password” hosted by Allen Ludden.

I can still recall the voice that gave the password to a contestant by whispering something akin to “The password is rhinoceros.” Then the contestant would try to get their partner to say rhinoceros by giving clues such as animal, horn and Africa. Eventually one team would score enough points and go on to the “Lightning Round” trying to win the $250 cash prize or a Michael C. Fina silver lobster fork set.

Before they were used to unlock tech devices verbal passwords were used in all walks of life. As far back as Mesopotamia verbal passwords were required to gain access to secured dwellings.

During World War II, soldiers were required to be able to say a password to prove they were American. Often they were asked questions like “Who wore number three for the Yankees? or “What instrument does Benny Goodman play?” Failure to correctly reply with Babe Ruth or the clarinet sometimes had dire consequences like access being denied to the latrine.

Around the time that Allen Ludden was handing out silver lobster forks, an inventor named Fernando Corbato developed the first computer password. He invented it to prevent casual snooping never realizing that eventually passwords would be used to prevent identity theft and to protect government records.

Modern devices are often poorly protected by passwords that lack both creativity and security. In the United States over two million use the password “123456.” It is still the most common password.

For many who falsely think it makes it harder to be hacked, the second most popular is “123456789.” Also making the list of most common passwords is one that you can remember without writing it in your spiral notebook. As they would have said on the 1960's television show, “The password is password.”

Experts on creating safe passwords suggest several ways to generate one that will be difficult to hack and easy to remember. Most commonly they suggest using one that is a combination of letters, numbers and punctuation. Another way is to begin with an easy to remember word.

It also helps to use a root word that you can repeatedly successfully spell. Picking the correct word to form the basis of your new password is greatly underrated. Once you have your root word, you can add numbers and punctuation signs to further frustrate hackers.

Some pundits also suggest changing an o to a 0. An example is altering the word correct to c0rrect. Speaking of which, can you find the three words in the previous paragraph that were spelled inc0rrectly?

It is also recommended that for your frequently used tech devices you change passwords every ninety days.

There are nefarious internet thieves that make an illegal living hacking corporate and individual computers. In many cases they charge a ransom to allow you to continue using the device. Still others steal your identity to create bank accounts, car loans and credit cards in your name.

So, take the time to create a unique password. Oh, and if you are thinking of paying homage to that inventor of the computer password, I have already claimed most variations of C0rbato123456!


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here