I don’t think I’m a technophobe but my mates seem to cooperatively think I exhibit numerous symptoms. Wonder why. I consider myself an expert in Doom and Diablo, which hit the world (and expired) so long ago, no one remembers. I painstakingly solve purportedly complex numerical inanities, with my Spreadsheet standing in for my brain. And I can humbly boast of having scratched an enormous scratch on the surface of the Word Processor. All of this on a laptop that is close to superannuation. Anything beyond these basic necessities and my comprehension screeches to an abrupt halt.
But the leech that leaves me enervated is Internet Security. From banks to stock brokers to credit card providers to online booking websites to book ordering websites et al, my search for online amusement is killed by security fiends. Apart from being endowed with a short supply of memory, my IQ is located a couple of standard deviations to the left of the mean. By any definition, I am an internet Black Swan. I only wish the internet realised this.
Hoping to spawn an industry that would provide them with profitable employment over a life-time, the Internet Security experts insisted that security was lax online. That my aging laptop was extremely vulnerable to vicious attacks from wicked viruses and that I needed to fortify myself. Repeated indoctrination led to the installation of a slew of anti-viruses, anti-viruses to annihilate other anti-viruses, firewalls, malware-blockers, ad-blockers, spam-sappers and porn-busters to bust bust-poppers. My HDD houses so many of these aliens that there is little space left for mere-mortal software applications to live in peace.
As the industry grew the Security mavens grew fiercer. They invented a little devil of a device that was crucial to my online survival. My bank sent me one. My stock broker sent me one. My credit card provider sent me one. My cow sent me one. I carried so many of them at one point, my pockets met with a premature expiry.
Soon my bank insisted I boke an internet/phone banking PIN followed by million-digit bank account number followed by billion-digit some-other number followed by the SecureID/Token number; every time I interacted with them. For online dealings, I would have to have some knotty number and another password ready. The website would amuse itself by asking me random word/digits from these passwords. If I failed at any stage I was a nincompoop unworthy of banking online. The fine print in one of the customer agreements probably had some mention of a minimum IQ to prove I had the ability to regurgitate quickly.
Then my stock broker gently reminded me that my maze of passwords would only be valid for a short period. On expiry, I would have to concoct another maze to replace the older nightmares. The new inventory could not include the last thousand passwords entered into earlier mazes. Furthermore, I would have to include numbers and pesky lower/upper-case alphanumeric, hexadecimal mumbo jumbo that had been designed to turn my account into Fort Knox. If I lost the plot, the replacement password would be dispatched immediately, to reach me in 10 days. I had another option. I could call my broker and execute trades. I flunked the Password Regurgitation Test. I had a third option. Leave my positions to the mercy of the Gods and pray.
“We take your security very seriously, Sir.” said St. Security. I was too weak to react.
In one unfortunate instance I exhausted my allowed attempts at remembering the right password and my card was promptly blocked. I called customer care and was hung out to dry by one of their Security-junkies who seemed unhappy at my answers to his questions. The Inquisition ended badly as my horrendously pummelled brain blurted out my birth date incorrectly.
My email provider joined the party. I forgot my password and was promptly directed to a verification page that asked me to key in some alphanumeric gibberish before the gates to Heaven opened to welcome me. The alphanumeric (which was visible) was so contorted that I couldn’t recognize 10 of the 6 letters that appeared there. So I requested an alternative and was greeted with a longer string of alphanumeric amoeba. I waded through the slush, and was greeted with a Security Question. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember the answer. Loath to surrender, I keyed in some likely answers and…Aladdin had exhausted his wishes and Genie had deserted him. I was locked out. “Your security is paramount” or some such judgment had incriminated me. Before throwing in the towel, I searched for a way to solve the Security Question problem and my email Einstein gently directed me to log in to my account first and then do as I pleased. I abandoned the email account for good. Yahoo!
So I’m back to the old times. I write down every single password and the alphanumeric gymnastics that are vital to my existence, so I’m never caught off guard. Someone with access to my book would think they’ve stumbled on a goldmine. Only, the plastic rectangles that I use to transact online would add little more than experience to the hacker. Doubloons? Those are safely stashed away at an offline location (protected by a password). Or better still, I make liberal use of what possibly is the single best online invention through history – Cash on Delivery.
What has all this Security business achieved at the end of the day apart from complicating lives needlessly?
Uh, what was that password to the answer?