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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    October 01, 2016

    Final Thought
    Open Ses@ame! (or Fluffy Gets It With a Toyota)

    We all understand the need to secure data and the reasons why, but what’s with all the complicated passwords? Just “open sesame” and give me access already!

    Kevin J. Palmersheim

    Yeah, yeah, data protection is important to safeguard our clients and ourselves, so we need to follow cybersecurity to the letter. Yet I feel those letters have turned cybersecurity into a four-letter word – with one letter capitalized followed immediately by one number, one symbol, and two headache pills. I need a password to log in; one to bill on a client file; another for online legal research. I need three passwords to transfer money between accounts plus another to get into QuickBooks. Email, Twitter,, and a litany of other personal and professional computer accesses are all defended by $part@cus, Ӿena, or other anti-hacking password warriors.

    The problem with passwords is I have an easier time remembering my 8th grade locker combination than the passwords I now need. And why can't I just use 18-4-36, which coincidentally was not only my locker combination but also my typical success rate on algebra tests? Meanwhile, in this millennium, we've been asked to complicate our passwords and change them frequently to increase the level of security. But how much extra protection does one really get from $partacus1378 … and counting?

    Kevin J. PalmersheimKevin J. Palmersheim, U.W. 1992, practices business law with Haley Palmersheim S.C., Madison.

    Then there's the "forgot your password" security questions. I suppose my prepared responses sounded commonsense when I signed up, but for the life of me I can no longer recall my dog's maiden name. Or the street where my first car died, causing my exasperated prom date's face to turn her favorite shade of purple.

    Speaking of faces, security experts think they've come up with new alternatives to lessen the burden of password forgetfulness while increasing their beloved security. It started with my iPhone, which allows me to log in using a thumb or finger. But it only works with the thumb or finger I first used; and then, apparently, only if my fingertip has the proper humidity and temperament, frequently resulting in a strong desire to show my iPhone one very temperamental finger.

    Don't even get me started on my skepticism regarding facial recognition. This software allows a computer to grant access by recognizing consistent facial features that endure over time, meaning that Meg Ryan and Mickey Rourke will remain unable to access any of their computer files made after the Apple II-e in 1987.

    I know I'm not alone in my password plight. I've walked into countless offices and witnessed login codes taped to computer screens or desks, providing roughly the same security as wiring money to your new pen pal who also happens to be a Nigerian prince. Other people save files on their computer that list all of their passwords and the corresponding applications, which gives computer hackers a handy one-stop shopping list while leaving them enough free time to binge watch seasons 1-5 of Breaking Bad.

    But as long as security continues to be such a hassle, I plan to complain. My dog paws at the front door about 79 times per day, so why can't I use his paw print for access? Alternatively, why not allow me to use one of the colorful scars I've earned during my life to access whatever systems I want – perhaps that scar my prom date gave me after we walked 13 blocks to the dance. For goodness sake, just "open sesame" and give me access already! I know cybersecurity is not simple math – just don't make it algebra.

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