Today, our service manager has put together a very valuable post about the value of passwords. Thanks, Christopher!
During the course of our day, we all come to a point where a password is needed from our clients in order to perform maintenance on their machines. This seems to be met with a standard response of either “I do not know” or we end up inputing a list of passwords that a client thinks it may have been. Passwords seem to be an annoyance to most people, but perhaps they would not be if they understood the significance of them.
Every account that you create in the internet based current world requires you to create a username and a password. Most (but not all sites) allow us to use an existing email address as our username, but when it comes to the password requirements, many sites differ in what they classify as a secure password. No matter what the actual requirement is, the fact remains that you are going to need to input a password in order to access that account or information. There is no way around that. A password is required.
Further complicating the password issue is that our Apple devices save passwords, which means we do not have to keep the most common passwords on the tip of our tongue. We simply need to access that site from a computer that has the information stored on it. What happens when that computer is no longer accessible? Or that iPhone has been lost, stolen or replaced? More realistically, what if you no longer know the password for the administrator on your computer? Without that password, your computer is essentially non-useable until the password is either retrieved, or reset. The problem with resetting a user password on the computer is that it erases the area that previously had all of your passwords saved.
How do we prevent password related issues?
First, and probably most reliably and importantly: write them down.
There’s a little more to it then that, actually, but it is pretty simple. Write it down in a secure and central place for ALL of your passwords, and make an effort to identify which account that password is associated with. I used a standard notebook for approximately 10 years to store all of my account information, and it has saved my bacon on several occasions after a hard drive failure, or computer upgrade, but I found the idea of chronologically recording account information to be laborious when I needed to retrieve them. I recommend using something akin to an address book. We carry an internet password book which is identical to an address book (alphabetical tabs on the edge of the pages to easily find information). This has been the best solution that we have seen, and one that I have personally adopted due to the ease of finding information. Keep your passwords up to date, written down and stored in a secure place. For the most commonly accessed sites (banking, email, social networking, etc), keep those passwords with you if you access them from the road. You can use something as simple as a folded 3×5 card in your wallet, or one of the various password storage Apps available. I will try to cover some of the key pros and cons to each.
3 x 5 card (or similar “analogue” solution)
You do not need a password to access the written information.
Comparatively inexpensive to obtain and maintain.
They simply do not hold up very well if they go through the washing machine (but neither does an App on your iPhone).
They can smudge in the hot weather if your wallet lives in your back pocket.
iPhone and iPad Apps.
These are secure, encrypted files that are stored locally on your mobile devices, but still require a password to access the information. That means that if you forget the password created for the App, then you no longer have access to your information. This is very similar to the Apple Computer keychain, which also stores your passwords, but needs your administrator password to be accessed.
Again, if you forget your master password, then you have essentially locked yourself out of the information contained within.
There are a myriad of mobile Apps out there to manage passwords, if you are interested. A quick look over the App Store will reveal the most common Apps, like Dashlane, 1Password, mSecure, Safe Keeper, etc.
Why is any of this important to you?
Well simply, it is going to prevent frustration and headaches in your future. Allow me to paint you an image:
You sit down to your computer in the morning with your favorite morning beverage, and embark upon the task of sifting through your email. You open Mail on your Mac, and with the reliability of the sun coming up, your mail is pushed to your computer. As you go through your inbox, you come upon an email from a friend asking you if you are available to go sailing over the 4th of July weekend on their brand new Beneteau sloop, and you immediately hit the reply button. You compose a very convincing e-mail about how you would love to spend the day in Nantucket Sound on the vessel, but when you try to send the mail, you get an “outgoing SMTP error” message. You know that the staff at the iCape locations can and will fix this issue for you, so you slip your laptop into your messenger bag, and off you go to visit your favorite Apple Specialist.
The first thing that you are asked for, when you describe the issue that you are having, is the password for your mail account.
“Password? I didn’t bring that with me.”
“Oh yeah, passwords. Let me tell you about those things. I can never keep them straight.”
“Mail password? Is that the same as my Apple ID?”
Without that password, we are absolutely handcuffed, and probably cannot assist you. Why, you ask? Well, passwords are keys that unlock locks. They secure access to things important to you, and without having that password when you come to us, it is like bringing your Lexus to the dealer, but not bringing the keys. Would you bring your Mercedes in to the dealer, and try to hand them your front door key to the summer house and expect them to be able to help you? They cannot, and we cannot (generally) without the correct passwords for the accounts that you are having issues with. Trust me – we WANT to fix every issue that you have, but like any good craftsman, we cannot do quality work without quality tools. Passwords are one of those tools that we need.
Passwords may seem like a burden, an unnecessary inconvenience, or just something not important to you, until you have a problem. The difference between your interaction with us in correcting your issue as either an ordeal or as an adventure is going to be dependent upon your level of password management.