Like many of us, I have various bank accounts. The impression naturally is that I am burdened with cash. In reality, what I am burdened with is a plethora of passwords that I need for everything from checking details of my online accounts to withdrawing cash from an ATM. The other day, at an ATM I got the passwords of all the three accounts I had mixed up, so that none of the cards I was carrying worked; with others who were wanting to withdraw cash, giving me dirty looks that they reserve for scamsters. But how I immediately got an SMS alert saying that I had used a wrong password from the very ATM that refused to accept my debit card, is beyond me. Did it mean that the machine was smarter than the man? Or the woman?
These are times when our lives are governed not by god but by secure passwords. We need passwords to not only operate bank accounts but also when we need to use our credit and debit cards. And any casually thought password such as RatnaHyd won’t do. When we can be sure, the god of passwords will send us a message to say it’s a “weak” password to make you feel dim-witted for thinking of such an innocuous and obvious password. I am not sure how others feel, but the moment I see the word, “weak password” flashing on my screen, I think of it as a personal failure and add so many dots and dashes to my password all of which I forget next time I have to log on and am constantly pressing the button that asks, “Forgot password?”
I can understand (though not completely) the need for a “strong” password for bank accounts and credit cards, but why do I need a password for using my twitter account, for Facebook, for shopping on Flipkart and Infibeam, for buying air tickets, train tickets, even cinema tickets and yes, sometimes even to open this laptop!
Security: My tech savvy friends will laugh and point out on reading this. (If they are Facebook friends I don’t have to hear their comments as I can block them for which of course I have to remember my FB password.) Instead I ask my friends to give me options for colorful passwords that are enigmatic, cool and those that even I cannot forget or mix up.
This brings me to the other problem of having to remember all these passwords that I have created for ATMs and Flipkart like sites. I am not sure what devious ways others have thought of to store their passwords, but though I should not be making this public — I write down the passwords in a fancy pocket book (yellow, in case hackers are searching my house) under various convoluted headings such as Ameerpet Axe when its actually Axis Bank in Banjara Hills whose manager lives in Ameerpet!
Sometimes I have saved a pin number under titles such as Spin and other times under Sins feeling pleased at the deviousness of my own mind. I have so many codes to unlock my passwords in that pocket book, that these days I wonder if I need another diary (not so fancy of course) to write what these codes stand for.
This other diary which has the codes to my passwords I seriously believe I should store in my bank locker which I cannot do immediately as I am not able to recall the double digit number of my locker I have stored somewhere under the heading, “De Beers”.
I am not sure if anyone else has had this bizarre experience. When I call a certain credit card company for my last bill or to check if they have received my payment, the girl who answers the phone will first (for about half an hour) cross check my date of birth, place of residence, phone number, email id, mother’s maiden name, first film that I saw, and just when I heave a sigh of relief at having crossing various hurdles, there is a further security wall. She tells me I need a secure code for my credit card before she can reveal anything more. If anyone has worked with these call center men and women to key in this secure code and not had a breakdown I think they deserve some award, even a Padmashri.
These days if you see me going around Hyderabad with a glazed look murmuring under my breath, it is because I am reciting my all my passwords as if they were mantras for liberation. Except there is no liberation from this bondage of passwords.
Editorial, Wow! Hyderabad, August 2014