I just got back from my annual doctor’s appointment, where I got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that they found no health issues, so if all goes well, I don’t have to darken their door for another year. The bad news is they want me to sign up for their “online patient portal,” which they promise will allow me to access my medical records, ask questions, and make appointments quickly and easily. Previously, doing any of that meant you had to actually call their office, go through their automated answering system and then be placed on hold until you grew old and died while waiting for an actual human being to come on the line. I admit that I like the idea of never having to listen to an orchestra play the Rolling Stones’ song “Satisfaction” again, but I doubt that I’m going to sign up for the new system. Because if I did sign up, I’d have to create yet another password, and I absolutely do not want to do that.
Even though I’ve resisted online banking and am one of the few people in this country who still prefers to go to an actual store to shop rather than sit in my pajamas in front of my computer and simply order stuff that someone else has to deliver to my door, I still have way more passwords than I can handle now. It would be easy if I could just create one password for everything, but the experts warn against that. They also warn us not to create passwords based on the names of our pets or children, our birthdays, or something so obvious as “my password.” Which means that I can’t make a password out of anything I can possibly remember.
I’ve come up with my own system for “remembering” the passwords I have to use when I’m at home on my own computer. I have a binder that I keep in my desk drawer, right under my computer monitor, clearly labeled, “Important Computer Passwords.” My son, who does tech auditing for a living, has pointed out that there’s little sense in having passwords if I make it so convenient for everyone to find them. But I think that if someone has taken the trouble to break into my home with the intention of accessing my computer accounts, the least I could do is make it convenient for them. That way, they might not be so inclined to mess with my important stuff, like the profile on my Facebook page.
I have heard of online systems for storing and retrieving passwords, on what is called “the cloud.” But I just don’t see how putting all of my passwords out in cyberspace is a good idea. Aren’t the people who hack into websites also on cyberspace? It seems to me that the idea of storing passwords on the cloud is riskier than having them in my notebook. The chances of a hacker actually showing up at my house to look in my notebook are rather small, but I have already received several of the dreaded “security breach” notices from my credit card company, bank, and insurance company, who all insist on storing important information on the internet. It seems to me that storing my passwords in cyberspace makes as much sense as me storing my Sunday roast in my dog’s supper dish and expecting her to ignore it.
So, for now, I will decline to join the system that lets me access my doctor’s office via cyberspace, at least until someone comes up with a way to keep that information safe without forcing me to create yet another password I have to worry about. I know that makes me sound hopelessly old fashioned, and I probably am. But I’d rather be on hold for thirty minutes than have to admit that, once again, I’ve forgotten my stupid password.
PS: Many thanks to George, over at the excellent blog called The Off Key of Life, for the inspiration to write this post.