A password a day keeps you away


By the time this hits print, the underwhelming Apple announcement of its new watch and Iphones may be bigger news. Today (my time) it is, curiously, not.

Hidden behind the man with nothing up his sleeve was a new fact. The Iphone 6 is a digital wallet and includes near-field communications (NFC) capability and Apple Pay for mobile payments.

Same timeframe: Canadian Tire has announced a new, digital component for our revered national standard donation currency. Canadian Tire Money has gone digital.

Never mind the swirl of controversy surrounding the most-watched digital currency, Bitcoin. The world’s largest corporations are going all-in with digital exchange. After all, it is “technology,” and the kids seem to like it.

Kerry Knudsen
Kerry Knudsen

Also, there is nothing like digital to cause line-ups at the shell game of digital data, nothing like digital for hacking and nothing like digital to get people to sign away their legal rights. Just click I AGREE.

Lee Ann and I took our personal finances digital well over 20 years ago with a product from Intuit called Quicken. It was a life-saver. As Quicken evolved, so did our financial involvement with it, today Wood Industry magazine is accounted on Intuit’s Quickbooks and we are still using Quicken.

Several years back, Intuit purchased a new money-management software called Mint. Like Quicken, it has loads of tracking and reporting capabilities, but it’s all on-line. I thought it would be a shoo-in for the Canadian market, but there was a rub. In order for Mint to track your digital financial files, you had to give it your passwords, and doing so would void your bank’s guarantee to cover your losses in case of hacking.

My sense is that this did not so much reveal a problem with Mint as it cast a spotlight on a little clause in your contract with your bank. What it says is that if you give ANYBODY your password, your guarantee is void. If a hacker (or your bookkeeper or your X) cleans out your account, the protection you thought you had becomes virtual. After all, you gave them your password.

Of course, we all know we should change our passwords regularly, and we should not use either an easily discoverable password or use one password for multiple accounts. I currently have 94 passwords. Some need eight characters. Some need capital letters, numerals and symbols. Some need four digits. There is no chance in hell I could use one password for all the accounts. I have tried.

The reason for this mayhem is because the whole system is balanced on a razor and the system wants YOU to be accountable. That way, when their genius, Millenial, IT gurus get flanked, the system crashes and somebody steals your identity, their first response can be that you did not change your passwords. All hundreds of them. Every 30 days. As if you have nothing better to do.

Have you ever tried changing your password under duress, as described above, and then, when required to change it again, have you tried reverting to the one you used in the first place? Of course you did. The result was that you got scolded by the machine and docked one failed password attempt. Four more and your account is locked.

My current account with Border Security is locked. The little box says I should contact Customer Service. Do you know what Border Security and Customer Service have to do with each other? The second word in each name starts with S.

Right now, the e-mail reference says it takes four weeks to get a digital response and suggests you call. The two numbers they provide both say “The number you dialed cannot be reached at this time.” Since the stated goal of the terrorists is to restrict commerce and travel, one wonders whether the Border Security Union is incompetent or complicit. (I’ll bet that one costs me.)

So we were talking about Apple. Apple wants you to put all your financial information, all your passwords and all your accounts in one place, then void your guarantees by giving Apple your password. If you don’t, you cannot “enjoy” the “benefits” of on-the-spot purchasing. Unless, of course, you are using cash (gasp).

Oh, what the hell. I AGREE.

  • Dear Kerry,
    Your editorial in the September / October issue was probably your best in a long time. They are always excellent, mind you, but this one rings a bell to a much larger audience than the wood industry community. I have enjoyed reading your prose once again ………… a little more this time. We should all say ”thanks for the reminder”. Please continue ……….


    • Thanks, Michel,
      The question is, what can we do about it? The next thing you know, we will all be required to have a password to call an automated telephone: “Please enter your password to enter 1 for English….”

      Have you noticed when you call the government or Rogers that they say the call will be recorded for “quality purposes?” It’s not. It’s legal purposes. In almost every instance, the customer is now the adversary.