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Passwords: we're outsmarting ourselves

It seems like almost a daily occurrence now: some website I'm visiting or our company e-mail prompts me to change my login password.

Nope, it replies, that password isn't good enough. It needs numbers.

Nope, you used that one before.

Nope, it also needs capital letters.

Nope, it doesn't have the minimum number of characters that we've arbitrarily chosen.

I have about six to eight different passwords I use for various accounts. I can't even give you an exact number because all at different times, they ask me for a new password, and I don't know which generation of password I assigned.

The sites that require you to change your password every month or two are no doubt more secure, unless you consider they're so darn complicated in their own rules that I need to write down the stupid password next to the computer if I have any hope of logging in ever again.

In the rare instance I actually stumble across a password I set up years before, and I'm granted entry into a site, invariably the phone will ring or the dog needs to be let outside and by the time I return to the keyboard, the site has logged me out "for your own security." Not my sanity, mind you, my security.

When I log in to check my 401(k) account, that bank requires a specific type of username, has specific rules for what can be a password, and then, just in case you've cleared the first two hurdles, it asks you to choose three selections from a grid of nine pictures. Hmmmm, I think, when I last signed into this site three years ago, was I thinking about horsies? Or birdies? Or cows that go "moo"?

How are we supposed to remember all of this stuff?

It's no wonder why people do their best to choose one, very simple password, that they can use universally and at least have some hope of remembering.

In fact, last year the most common passwords, in order of popularity, were:

1. password

2. 123456

3. 12345678

4. qwerty

5. abc123

From that list, it seems we've all given up trying to find that password that's unique to us, but nearly unbreakable to others. Other common passwords are people's kids' names and their pets' names. This sort of information may have been clever in 1995, but in today's world, we have Facebook where people have photo albums of their kids and pets with the names, as well as information about where they work, where they went to school, what their favorite teams are, what their date of birth is, etc.

I would be willing to guess that if I had enough tries, I could guess the passwords of 75 percent of people.

And I bet a good half of us have a note next to our computers that has at least one password written down next to the computer.

The Fort Knox of security, it is not.

Maybe it's time for the security device that requires a fingerprint scan or a retinal scan like you see in science fiction movies.

Or maybe I'll just change all of mine to "password" and join the crowd.