CHICAGO — Good thing she doesn’t need a password to get into heaven. That’s what Donna Spinner often mutters when she tries to remember the growing list of letter-number-and-symbol codes she’s had to create to access her various online accounts.
“At my age, it just gets too confusing,” says the 72-year-old grandmother who lives outside Decatur, Illinois.
But this is far from just a senior moment. Frustration over passwords is as common across the age brackets as the little reminder notes on which people often write them.
“We are in the midst of an era I call the ‘tyranny of the password,’” says Thomas Way, a computer science professor at Villanova University.
“We’re due for a revolution.”
One could argue that the revolution is already well underway, with passwords destined to go the way of the floppy disc and dial-up Internet. Already, there are multiple services that generate and store your passwords so you don’t have to remember them. Beyond that, biometric technology is emerging, using thumbprints and face recognition to help us get into our accounts and our devices. Some new iPhones use the technology, for instance, as do a few retailers, whose employees log into work computers with a touch of the hand.
Still, many people cling to the password, the devil we know — even though the passwords we end up creating, the ones we CAN remember, often aren’t very secure at all. Look at any list of the most common passwords making the rounds on the Internet and you’ll find anything from “abc123,” ‘‘letmein” and “iloveyou” to — you guessed it — use of the word “password” as a password.
Bill Lidinsky, director of security and forensics at the School of Applied Technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, has seen it all — and often demonstrates in his college classes just how easy it is to use readily available software to figure out many passwords.