Rhodri Marsden: We’ve proved that we can’t be trusted with setting passwords

Geek Mythology

In Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven series, the young detectives regularly meet in an old shed. Admittance is gained via a password which, mindful of security issues, the seven change on a regular basis.

You’d hardly describe their codes as uncrackable – “adventure”, “beware”, “holidays” – but they probably figured that the chances of anyone infiltrating the meeting (and being immediately identifiable as not part of The Secret Seven) was unlikely.

That unlikelihood is something we all continue to depend on; we’re told relentlessly that our passwords are useless, that they’re not long enough, that using the name of a Premiership football team is akin to giving away your identity on a digital plate and that adding the year of your birth on the end isn’t much better.

As we choose passwords, services tell us if they’re strong or weak – but if they’re deemed weak we use them anyway. Why would anyone want to crack our password?

We’re told not to reuse the same passwords, but we do because they’re so terribly hard to remember. Maybe, at a push, we keep a rotation of three or four which we use across 50 or more sites and services, but poor security on one site still leaves us open to attack on others.

If our Twitter is hacked or our Yahoo infiltrated, we merely change the password to one of our other two options.

We spurn services such as LastPass that construct random passwords for each service, unlocked by a single master password, because we’ve grown attached to typing “gunsnroses” or “kitten69”. We won’t help ourselves. And such is the damage wrought by our refusal to wise up that it may be taken out of our hands altogether.

Fido (Fast Identity Online) is a consortium of organisations including Google, Mastercard and now Microsoft that’s constructing a protocol that will rid us of the need to remember multiple passwords. A two-step authentication process will use our mobile phone (or alternative device) to confirm who we are; every online login will require a PIN (or even a fingerprint) to be entered on the device, which then generates the key to let us in.

Two-step authentication is already used by banks and is offered by the likes of Paypal and Google itself to improve security; it works. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect, and in this post-Snowden era, many people have been quick to slam the plan.

It’s an unnecessary faff, they say. What if the device is lost? How can we trust a consortium composed of companies whose motives can’t be verified?

Why include biometrics in this? If my fingerprint data is compromised, where do I get a new fingerprint? How long until we’re all microchipped at birth? All these questions can be rebutted to some extent, but the fact remains that we’ve proven extensively over a 20-year period that we can’t be trusted with our own security. We need to be protected from our own uselessness.

You might say that anyone who can’t remember even the weakest password deserves all they get – but you’d be wrong, as you’ll find out when you reach old age.

Rampant paranoia over the actions of multinationals makes for an enthralling discussion, but it doesn’t help people avoid becoming victims of crime. So Fido, bring it on. Unfortunately, we need you.


Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine