Whether at work or at home, we are hounded for user names and passwords. At work, I need them to get onto our network. I also need them to access our online personnel system, which includes recording my time, checking on earned / used leave, and most benefits. Since my pay and travel reimbursements are electronically deposited, the only way I can check on those is to log onto the Financial Services’ network and of course that requires a user name and password. But hey, that’s only three user names and passwords for just about everything I might need to do at work.
Home is where the user name and password nightmare is. I need them for over 50 sites from Amazon to Paypal to Yahoo.
When it comes to usernames and passwords, we hear two commandments from cyber security “experts.” First, don’t use the same ones for different sites because if you get hacked then all your sites are compromised. That’s a logical point. But the second commandment is problematical: don’t write your user names and passwords down.
I challenge these experts to reconcile those two commandments for folks like me. Do they really believe I can commit to memory 50 user names and passwords? Maybe when the Singularity arrives and nano technology has been implanted into my brain and I have a very nice hard drive to store all those user names and passwords and immediately retrieve them. Fortunately, I have an advantage over many folks when it comes to user names and passwords.
I know many words in a language that is not very well known – Tagalog. By using Tagalog user names and passwords, I can rely on a handful of them for multiple sites. And by including “personal” information from my time in the Philippines, such as street names and numbers, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to hack my user name and password.
For that reason, I have no problem with a having list of all my websites and user names / passwords hints sitting on a shelf next to my computer. If anyone breaks into my home and somehow figures out the Tagalog phrase password to even log onto my computer, or steals the list for future hacking, he or she better know Tagalog, Philippine geography, food, etc. and some personal information about my life in the Philippines.
What was the name of my geometry teacher? How about my favorite maid when I was a child? The street I lived on between 8th and 12th grades? The street where my school was located until fourth grade? The name of a somewhat sour Philippine fruit with white pulp?
I don’t use what I consider to be an “easy” guess. “‘Tang ina mo” (which you may remember is the last word in the this post’s title) is known to everyone who has been in the Philippines even a day. It means your mother works in the oldest profession. “Balut” has been popularized by Fear Factor and at least one of those “strange foods” TV shows.
Now if you happen to know a phrase often seen on walls in the Philippines, you’ve taken a step. Now just put the number on my high school basketball jersey in front of it and at the end of the phrase put the last two numbers of my last street addresses and you’ve got one of my usernames. Then, there’s the password, which is more of the same.
So to all hackers I say: “Bring it on” and “Tang ina mo!”