I have a lot of catching up to do.
Only recently was I made aware that, since 2013, the first Thursday in May has been designated World Password Day. I checked my (hopefully) password-protected Google Calendar app and my guilt gradually escalated upon realizing that on May 2, 2013, May 1, 2014 and May 7, 2015, I had done absolutely nothing to promote better password habits. My lack of effort in 2013 was particularly infuriating for, according to my calendar, I was in Fort Lauderdale, performing standup comedy for 500 convention and tourism representatives from the South Florida area. I could have educated a rapt audience on cyber safety by including some jokes about two-factor authentication. Alas, upon checking my speech notes from that performance, I realized I did not write any material about passwords. However, I do remember getting valuable tips from several audience members on which bars had the best tequila specials during Spring Break.
Perhaps I wasn't made aware of World Password Day because it's just that... a single day. Something as valuable as protecting one's Amazon, Walmart and Airbnb accounts from cybercriminals surely merits more than one 24-hour clock cycle. Heck, the entire MONTH of May has been designated National Barbecue Month, National Hamburger Month and, in acts of extreme irony, National Blood Pressure Month and National Salad Month.
I don't need an entire month to celebrate smoky rib tips and kale. But, even if it's only for an hour, I need to embrace the idea of password safety and hear tips from experts on managing my passwords. I'm happy to read those tips via an online newsgroup or chat room provided I don't have to first create an account and establish a password. You see, there is already a jumble of letters and numbers swirling around in my head like lottery balls each time I attempt an online transaction or communication. Does "funnydad49" allow me to book tickets via American Airlines' website or is that what I use to check my Hotmail? Does 3472 unlock my phone or raise and lower my garage door by means of the electronic keypad outside my house? Is "cyberdork871" my Apple ID that lets me shop in the iTunes store through my iPad or is it the code I created for my home wireless network that lets the iPad talk to the iTunes store?
Making matters worse, I regularly change my most often used passwords, a tip I learned either from a cybersecurity website or a Dr. Phil episode. I'm not sure which. My new passwords always include advanced levels of complexity featuring capital letters, numerals and "special" characters. Regarding the latter, I recently created a password ending with the copyright symbol, ©. Per instructions from numerous password experts, I wrote it down and stored it in a safe place yet, upon revisiting the site, had to click "forgot password" when I realized I couldn't remember how to create the copyright symbol on my keyboard. Ctrl + Alt + C is now written down and stored in a safe place as well.
Recently I received an email inviting me to download one of those "password manager" apps. CREATE A SECURE PASSWORD VAULT, the email screamed. STORE ALL YOUR PASSWORDS IN ONE LOCATION! I downloaded the app and, moments later, deleted it. Why? The app required a password. That's right, I'd need a password to retrieve my passwords, a feature that makes about as much sense as ISPs that invite you to seek help, via their websites, to restore your lost internet signal.
In short, I need help. But now that May is here and the weather is warmer, I'm ready to party. Outside. So I'll be celebrating World Password Day with a blowout bash at my house featuring lively discussions about passwords, an esteemed guest list (more about that later) and, of course, beer. I've already bounced the idea off my wife who responded appropriately: She reached for her cell phone and dialed a caterer. As I write this, hors d'oeuvres in the shape of special characters are being prepared.
I'll invite all my friends and neighbors but will do so the old fashioned way... with hand printed, snail mailed invitations. Sure, I could save time with a blast delivered via an online invitation service like Evite but doing so might require recipients to create accounts featuring, you guessed it, passwords. No need to torture those closest to me, most of whom are my age and facing similar challenges when it comes to memorization.
I'll decline all offers of food; instead, I'll ask everyone to bring printouts of their current passwords. We'll sit around my backyard fire pit and, one by one, toss the papers into the flames, symbolizing our willingness to create new and stronger passwords immediately. First, we'll change our Instagram passwords so we can post photos of the carnage.
Arriving fashionably late will be my aforementioned special guests, beginning with Apple CEO Tim Cook, who will share tips on how to successfully remember passwords. I assume he has mastered this skill due to his insistence that nobody, save for the owner, should be allowed access to an iPhone. The FBI, as we all know, disagrees but that's beside the point. I just want to ask Cook what he would do if he forgot his own password. Surely he doesn't feel this will ever occur so he must have some special memory trick that my guests would love to hear.
I'll invite President Obama, who impressed me with his recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal in which he announced a new Cybersecurity National Action Plan and justified it by using fancy words like "botnet" and "ransomware." I doubt the president knows what a botnet is but if he's willing to spend 3 billion dollars so Target doesn't have to once again send 70 million customers emails with subject lines that say, "Oops, your data's been hacked. Our bad," then he's more than welcome.
Hillary Clinton will drop by and serve as a judge for my party game, "Password Pursuit." The rules are simple: Everybody ponies up 50 bucks and tries to guess what password Clinton used on her home computer while she served as secretary of state. For the record, I'm going with "BurnBernie2016."
Whoever is the closest gets the money and a selfie with Hillary, who will then reveal the actual password. Doing so would cause no harm, as her private server was chopped, diced, shredded and julienned into fine granules, and spread over Westchester County, New York with a leaf blower once congressional investigators started asking questions. The one she turned over to the feds was purchased at a local Best Buy.
Finally, I'll invite Donald Trump who, as far as I can tell, knows absolutely nothing about password protection and improving online security. But he'll be on the list simply to tell everyone, Tim Cook included, about his password which is, no doubt, the GREATEST MOST AMAZING password ever created.
Happy World Password Day everyone. Now, if you'll excuse me, the caterer is on the line, wondering if I want to include a Hacker Dunk Tank at my party.