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Passwords: Best Friend, Worst Enemy of Computer Users

May 25, 2014
Plain English Version

PasswordsWho invented the computer password? When and where was it invented?

Answer: Fernando Corbató help create the first computer password at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1960s.

“It has become a nightmare,” says the now 87-year old. “I do not think anybody can possibly remember all their passwords.”

Nobody likes remembering and using passwords. Companies say they are a security threat. Just last week eBay urged its 145 million users to change their passwords. Experts expect few people to do so.

Last month something called Heartbleed exposed billions of passwords to hackers. A survey showed that just 39 percent of adult Internet users cancelled accounts or changed their passwords.

Experts hate passwords. “They need to be shot,” one said.

However, passwords are everywhere. They are cheap to manage. They are part of the structure of websites. They are now a part of human behavior. An expert said, “It is the only piece of technology from 50 years ago that we are still using today.”

No single idea – iris scans, fingerprint readers or USB keys has made its way to the front to replace passwords. Smartphones and tablets have simply added to the sprawl of passwords.

Despite warnings people cling to easy-to-remember passwords and often use the same ones for many accounts. The worst passwords include “123456,” “password” and “qwerty.”

Companies like Google, Twitter, PayPal and Apple are installing new two-step security systems. The biggest challenge is that, to go from passwords to something else, means that thousands of companies will have to work with each other.

Meanwhile, change your passwords.

Source: The Wall Street Journal                                                               May 21, 2014

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