Just like my neighbor Carlos’ ferocious, man-eating cocker spaniel — or my Sixth Grade nun — Internet password strength checkers can smell fear on a man: Gotta’ get by me first punk, before you can do anything,” each one of them barks. But again, I’m getting ahead of myself…
“What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?”
The statement is made by the head of the Credit Card Fraud Department of my current bank and former longtime employer. His cramped office is located in the bowels of the bank headquarters building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia and his department is not often visited by the public. Maybe that fact accounts for the office’s almost makeshift, ‘thrown together’ appearance. I note that about half of the desks are pressed wood, the kind sold at those big box office supply stores. The other half is surely made up of government surplus. “If, by chance, the bank is not meeting stockholder profit expectations, it ain’t because of lavish spending on furnishings”, I tell myself.
Each desk has a DELL flat screen computer mounted on its driver’s side. Each workstation is manned by a bank online security specialist. Although, I must have been in this building hundreds of times when I was a bank employee, this is the first time I’ve ever noticed that for some reason the place smells vaguely like vanilla.
I had received the call from Bank Security on the previous day, some six weeks after ‘The Fake Will Affair.” Weeks before, the bank had promptly refunded all of the monies taken from my account for the Jet Blue tickets, the monster truck tires, and even the money my imposter had given to the Nassau County Republicans. The call was to request me to come in and sign some documents regarding the refund of those same monies. (Before I got to the Bank Security Office I didn’t exactly know what I was going to be signing—or signing for. My old bank is legendary for its…er, ‘frugality’ and as such I was happy not to see a set of monster truck tires, recovered from Fake Will, of which I was supposed to now take custody!)
“Bernie, I’m an optimistic kinda guy. Give me the good news first,” I say to the bank vice president and manager of the department.
“The good news is as result of all the mischief ‘Fake Will’ or whatever you’ve nicknamed him was doing out there a few weeks back, your credit scores increased dramatically…they’re through the roof.” I’ve known Bernie Calumet, at least on a causal basis for a long time. He’s not a kidder. In fact he doesn’t have much of a sense of humor about anything.
“You don’t see scores like this every day. As head of Bank Security,I see the scores of people from all walks of life…presidents, kings, Arab sheiks…everybody. As a result of Fake Will and his shenanigans, you now have scores that are impeccable, the same type of credit scores as nuns, saints and drug dealers!”
“Will, you could probably waltz into a store almost anywhere in the country and buy anything you wanted. On credit. Anything! New Cadillac, new Porsche, lease a penthouse apartment. Almost anything.”
I feel my eyes grow grew bigger — big, like a kid in a toy shop around Christmas. “Like maybe a helicopter, maybe?”
“Hell, Will with credit scores this high, you could co-sign to buy a f*&king Space Shuttle!”
“Wow!” I say again.
“You could probably go to an arms dealer, buy weapons grade plutonium, get the stuff through U.S. Customs and nobody would question your motives.” Prior to heading up bank security, Bernie was with the FBI and CIA. The statement regarding weapons grade plutonium sounds impressive, though I have no real idea of what weapons grade plutonium is.
“I’m serious. These are great scores.”
“You know Bernie, I have been looking at buying a new…”
“The bad news is you can’t keep ’em…you can’t use those credit scores, Will. It would be wrong and you know we had to inform the credit bureaus about Fake Will and all. By tomorrow morning, you’ll have the same old pedestrian credit scores of the Average American again—the same ones you used to have. Pretty “piss-ant” stuff, if you ask me.”
“(GULP) Think I could still sign for a new Cadillac, if I wanted?”
“Ha! I don’t think so. Fella, with average American scores, you’ll be lucky to be able to co-sign for a Fedex or UPS delivery. Now here, please sign these documents certifying that you’ve received your replacement funds.
“Sure,” I said wistfully as I signed a couple of documents in triplicate. I did so absent-mindedly while thinking about what it was like to have the same high credit scores as nuns, saints and drug dealers.
Swapping out or re-setting all my passwords and PINS (“All of ’em, says Kenny B.) is no easy task. And while I understand the urgency to do this thing with the Heartbleed Bug looming, I am not happy about it.
One reason is I had finally come up with one SUPER-SIMPLIFIED-ULTIMATE-PERFECT PASSWORD.
Now I’m having to give it up.
In an instant, I knew it was the perfect password. At the moment if its discovery, I’d say to myself the same two things one hears around the periphery when any timely discovery is made–from Balboa peeping the Pacific Ocean for the first time to where I mislaid the car keys this morning: “Eureka, I’ve found it!” and “You idiot! This was so obvious. Why didn’t you think of looking here before now dumbass!”
My perfect password had all the properties a perfect password should have: elegance in simplicity; strength enough to resist penetration from cads, interlopers, hackers, Fake Will’s,etc; a hint of sex and most importantly, it protects the owner’s ‘goodies’ while he is off taking care of other business. When I thought about it, my perfect password was just like a midievil chastity belt
My perfect password was easy to remember too. My memory is prodigal these days. Not only does my memory have a mind and free will of its own, specific memories including PIN numbers, secret codes and where I mislaid the car-keys will go AWOL for long periods of time. I often have no idea where they’ve gone, what they are doing, or who they’ve been doing it with. All I know is they ‘sure as hell’ haven’t been doing it with me. At least not lately. Of course, true to the nature of any prodigal, when the crisis is nearly over and they may have even been replaced, the prodigals come straggling in, unshaven, drunk, disheveled and in need of a good delousing.
Of course, the biggest reason the swapping out task is difficult is those Internet password strength checkers. They are man-eaters! Like a high maintenance woman, their ultimate approval is impossible to achieve. Like my neighbor Carlos’ man-eating cocker-spaniel, Internet password strength checkers can also smell fear on a man.
Whenever I am hunched over my laptop working desperately fast before ‘the system’ times out it seems I’m in Sixth Grade all over again and Sister Mary Agnes, a certified Zero Tolerance nun is standing over me. She has a severe look on her face, a ruler in one hand, and a stop watch in the other. She shakes her head from side to side as I desperately spell out and punch in my spontaneously conjured 8-to-12 character password attempts.
WC Input to computer: “C|H|A|S|T|I|T|Y |B|E|L|T”
Password Strength Checker: “Nice try William, but you’ve used this password before.”
WC: “But it’s the perfect password for me.”
PSC: “You’d only be cheating yourself. Try again. Better hurry, I’m going to timeout any nanosecond
WC: “Ok, I’m hurrying…I’m hurrying … what about this one: X|A|C|T?”
PSC: “Password Strength is 2 out of 10. Surely you jest, punk.”
WC: “What about X|A|C|T|O then?”
PSC: “Password Strength is 1. Even worse. You sure you went to college? Here’s a suggestion. What
about the password 18A76514#479?”
WC: “Who could possibly remember that?”
PSC: “Einstein could’ve remembered it. ”
WC: “Well, I couldn’t …I couldn’t possibly remember that…..OK, what about X|A|C|T|L|Y?”
PSC: “3.5 Pathetic. Is that sweat I see on your cheeks or are you crying on me?”
WC: “What about X|A|C|T|A|M|U|N|D|O”
PSC: “OK, Fonzie, I’m giving this one a password strength of 8. I’ll take it this once, but only because I’ve got better things to do today than mess around with you, you ignorant bastard. By the way, those are tears I see! Don’t cry punk. I’ve broken many a man. Better’n you.”
WC: “My next one was going to be M|A|N|E|A|T|E|R”
PSC: “M|A|N|E|A|T|E|R! Perfecto! Finally, you’ve come up with a good password. This was so obvious. Why didn’t you think of this before now, dumbass?! Now let’s get on with re-setting the next ones…the next passwords. You’ve got fifty more to go…”
A full day and a half later, despite breaks for water, vitamins, exercise and a large chicken, mushroom and pineapple pizza, I am finished –although my ego is substantially worse for wear.
I’d had countless trial password entries rejected, had been timed-out at least once by twelve different man-eating password strength checkers and knocked off line eight times for no reason whatsoever. Like the ocean, the Internet can be cruel.
In the end, I now have 6 new passwords plus new one super password for 11 accounts. I’ve also gotten kudos from my computer whiz friend Kenny B who says: “Good work. I didn’t figure you could do it, you old fool!”
Although I have hopefully thwarted the Heartbleed Bug, I feel no sense of real accomplishment since it’s inevitable another virus or threat will come about soon. There will always be some low self-esteem ass-wipe somewhere in the world who wants to ruin it for the rest of us. There will be another dastardly virus with a terrifying name like PLANET-KILLER or an ironic name like ‘Pansy’ (or maybe ‘Yo’ Mama’). Nevertheless, with the completion of the password project, another honeymoon period between me and the computer has begun. I doubt it will last for long.
But rather than dwell on the difficulties of life online, it’s time to get the cobwebs lose and some fresher air in my lungs. A jog around the block will do it. Now, if I can just get by my next door neighbor’s man-eating cocker-spaniel, the same one who can smell fear on a man. Like the Internet password checker, he barks “Can’t go anywhere without getting past me first, punk!”