Passwords: Potential for Problems

We need passwords for everything these days.  Email, network access, shopping, and increasingly, online applications.

I have, as of today, twenty accounts with various employers / career websites.  Each site requires a user name and password.  This is getting ridiculous.  I could use the same one for all of these, since they really aren’t that important in the scheme of things.  After all, I’ll abandon them as soon as I get a job.  But that doesn’t stimulate my creative side.  And it’s not a good idea in general.

A strong password contains letters, numbers, and special characters as allowed by the software.  As my job search continues, some of those words are becoming less than polite.   Obviously I can’t share them with you.  At least it makes them easier to remember!

“Enter password here…Poo8pyH3ads….”

Image: Stuart Miles /

Basic password safety includes the following:

  • Create passwords that aren’t easy to guess.  Microsoft’s Security Center has an article on how to do this
  • Don’t store your passwords where they can easily be accessed.  If you write them on a sticky note and post it on your monitor (or even in your desk drawer), anyone rummaging around your desk can get them.
  • Never share them with anyone.  Most IT people at your company who need to work on your machine will ask YOU to log in, or they will do so as an administrator.
  • Don’t use the same password for everything.  If anyone gets it, they have access to all your accounts.

Regarding sharing, there has been buzz recently about employers asking for applicants’ Facebook passwords, or asking them to log in while they inspect their pages.

THIS IS WRONG.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This article in the Canadian Financial Post says it best:  that Canadian courts have labeled it an intrusion into seclusion.  It’s also a violation of Facebook’s terms of service.

In the US, the state of Maryland has taken action regarding privacy for students, but federal lawmakers are still struggling with it.  Almost nobody agrees that it’s okay, but trying to draft legislation that addresses it is difficult.  The laws haven’t caught up to the Internet yet.

State-of-the-art government computer.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

What’s a jobseeker or employee to do when faced with this dilemma?

This article by Tony Morrison gives some good advice on what to do if a potential employer asks for your passwords.

There may be some high-clearance jobs where you have to do this; I don’t know what to tell you about that.  Some law enforcement positions require insanely intensive background checks.  If you’ve got questionable activities going on, they’re probably going to find them anyway.   But for most of us, it’s unnecessary.

Take care of your passwords.


3 thoughts on “Passwords: Potential for Problems

    • Ha ha, yes I saw that. I like xkcd. I don’t always get them, but they’re usually pretty good.

      I think the second method is the best. Some of the sites you create passwords for require you to use a number and a special character too. Even including those, a unique word choice is definitely going to be easier for you to remember.

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