An English professor on the dying art of the password

First passwords went from the “Open Sesame!” kind of literature to stuff we type to log on to things, then they went from actual words to incoherent symbols in an attempt to be more secure, now they don’t seem to even be all that secure.

News this week that Russian hackers have stolen 1.2 billion passwords makes me want to throw up my hands in resignation and change all my passwords back to “password.”

As a professional wordsmith (English professor and writer), it saddens me that these “words” we’re supposed to “pass” when we log onto our email and bank accounts even remotely share the same categorical denomination as the words that actually embody value for humanity: Words like “April is the cruelest month” or “The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Today’s passwords aren’t words. I demand a new term for them.

The Lost Art of Passwords: What We Lost When Hackers Conquered the Internet – Randy Malamud, Salon (9 August 2014)

As a professional wordsmith, I twitch at the ugly repetition of the word ‘lost’ in that headline but I don’t write an article about it. And I just use 1Password to get around most of Randy’s problems. Still, Malamud’s full piece is part entertaining rant and part collection of password gems such as my new favourite from the Marx Brothers: