Dear Evil Skippy:
My employer insists that all of us change our computer passwords every three months. We are not allowed to leave a password list at our desk. The passwords have to have both symbols and letters and can’t use any part of our name. It’s crazy. When I get back from a vacation or business trip or just a weekend after the passwords are changed, I can’t remember the new one. It makes me want to scream. Now I have been given a double reprimand due to the password policy. I was written up for having an “inappropriate password” (%ihatemyjob^) and for giving my password to a co-worker without prior permission from my supervisor or IT. It was the only way to get a project done and now I am being punished. How can I put a stop to this craziness? If you can’t think of a way for me to get the password policy changed, how about coming up with some good passwords that I won’t forget?
— In Password Pain
You sure have a way with words (excluding passwords). You were not reprimanded “due” to the policy. You were reprimanded because you violated the policy. Now take a deep breath and channel your inner adult before you follow my simple instructions.
First, accept the fact that workplaces have rules and you have to follow them if you want to work there. It’s called being an adult. You should try it.
Second, stop making excuses. You knew you were not supposed to give out your password but you did anyway. You weren’t terminated; you were just reprimanded. Start following the rules and you won’t have any more problems like that.
As for some memorable passwords, here are the first ones to jump into my mind:
That should get you through to 2020.
— Evil Skippy
When you are coming up with new passwords, be sure not to select any of the following which were identified in Forbes magazine as the twenty worst (i.e. easiest to hack) passwords of 2018:
No. 20: [email protected]#$%^&*
No. 19: 654321
No. 18: monkey
No. 17: 123123
No. 16: football
No. 15: abc123
No. 14: 666666
N0. 13: welcome
No. 12: admin
No. 11: princess
No. 10: iloveyou
No. 9: qwerty
No. 8: sunshine
No. 7: 1234567
No. 6: 111111
No. 5: 12345
No. 4: 12345678
No. 3: 123456789
No. 2: password
And the winner is: 123456
I sympathize with you about the memory malfunctions. The same thing used to happen to me with passwords back in my law firm days. However, I also sympathize with your employer. Cyber security is important. I worked on a case where one employee hacked into another’s e-mail to send messages to other people that appeared to be coming from the co-worker. (The law enforcement agencies that became involved were not amused). Bad passwords can contribute to the undesired release of confidential information (both company secrets and employees’ private information – like social security numbers and weight loss history). Worst case scenario – co-workers might write fake status updates on your Facebook page.
Help avoid these horrors by figuring out a way to stay in compliance with the policy without driving yourself crazy. Try the adult method. Meet with your boss and tell him or her about your difficulty with the ever-changing codes. Acknowledge that you are not allowed to keep the passwords written down at work, but ask if you can keep the password in your wallet or purse. Promise not to leave it on your desk or in a drawer.
With a little effort on your part, you will be able to figure out passwords that you won’t forget. You just have to stop convincing yourself in advance that you can’t do it. The one and only exception is if you have an actual physical or mental condition that prevents you from remembering the passwords. By “actual”, I mean diagnosed by a medical professional. If you are physically or mentally unable to remember passwords, then your employer should work with you to come up with a reasonable accommodation.
I have a hunch that some ES fans will know great schemes for remembering passwords at work. Do share.
Evil Skippy and/or Jim are available to speak at your conferences and seminars! For information or to send a question for Evil Skippy to answer, use the “Contact” link on the left sidebar.