There are lots of different things in life that we periodically replace or renew. Underwear, for example. There's probably no need to explain the rationale behind this practice. Just know that, if you haven't been changing your underwear often, well, you should probably make a different choice. Doing it every day would be ideal, but you ought to at least consider attending to this rather routine item of personal hygiene management a couple of times per week.
Something else that most us have that we should regularly change is a password. Well, OK, most of us so many passwords that we could probably change a different one every day for at least a month. It wasn't ever thus: For most people, passwords have only really become a feature of daily life over the past few decades. Before computers and the internet became omnipresent most people probably only worried about remembering ATM card PIN numbers and locker combinations.
Passwords have been around for thousands of years, of course, largely as a function of military rigor. The Greek historian Polybius, writing about the legions of the Roman Republic, describes a system in which the watchword for entering a legionary camp would be scribed on a wooden tablet. Unique watchword tablets would then be distributed throughout the camp and passed back to the command tent as each unit committed the new watchword to memory.
We're thinking about all of this, of course, because tomorrow, May 2, is World Password Day. Inaugurated by tech titan Intel in 2013, World Password Day is intended to get all of us fired up about protecting our personal data, finances, identity, and so forth by following better password practices — including the oft-repeated and frequently ignored injunction to change our passwords. Ideally, we should change them on an at least semi-regular basis.
Many observers argue that we've outlived the usefulness of passwords altogether. In addition to being easily and frequently stolen, most people's passwords are not very complex, frequently reused, and often linked to easily identifiable (or guessable) dates or phrases. There are already security technologies that could eliminate the need for passwords. It's hard to change long-ingrained business practices, of course, so don't expect passwords to vanish tomorrow.
Until we finally do get to the bright future where nobody has to remember (or write down) a million different combinations of UN and PW, at least consider making it a habit to change your passwords. Also, remember to create complex passwords that have letters, numbers, and special characters, and are at least 8-to-12 characters in length. Since no one can guess from the smell how long its been since the last time you changed a password, this one's on you.
Share this post