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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Dec 2014

Regional Takes

Of user IDs and passwords
Col Avnish Sharma (retd), Hindustan Times
April 16, 2013
First Published: 09:18 IST(16/4/2013)
Last Updated: 09:19 IST(16/4/2013)

One fondly remembers the popular 70s' flick with the onscreen don Ajit handing over one of his men a half 50-rupee note with the precise brief, "Raabart, Versova taapu par sona lane wale jahaaz se torch ka 'on-off' signal hoga, tum uskaa jawaab 'off-on' se dena. Ek aadmi sona lekar utregaa, woh is note ka doosra hissa tumhe degaa......." Gateways to treasure were novel and imaginative.


Over the years, the concept of  concealing identity and veiling information has assumed prominence. There being a user ID and password for anything and everything. Bank accounts and cyber security may seem manageable, but with rail and air reservations, office entry cards, hotel room access cards, movie ticket bookings, membership cards, the good old wallet has less currency and unlimited cards.

Once, at a busy railway station, I realised with dismay that a skilled pickpocket had done his job. The agony of losing half a dozen cards was lessened with an almost negligible loss of hard cash. After a few days, I received  a courier containing my wallet intact with a note, "Your wallet is an idle weight of plastic. Out of respect for an armyman, I am returning your wallet."

Password mania at times can be a potent encumbrance. Being one of the E-age commanding officers, I was made to move with a laptop containing presentations and professional data. My boss, an old-timer, also possessed an unused gizmo like mine. During one of the meetings, he thought of educating himself on my laptop and asked me the password to get going. Like a true security-conscious E-user, I myself entered the password. He took umbrage on being distrusted for a non-essential like a password and banned carriage of laptops for official meetings.

My efforts to register with the India Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited site for rail reservation met with repeated non-acceptance of around three-dozen user names. In a huff, I recorded a popular Punjabi abuse as the user name. It was accepted immediately and exists till now and the entire family uses it, notwithstanding the embarrassment.

The other day, we were packing our stuff to attend the reunion celebrations of my regiment stationed in J&K. To avoid separate suitcases, my wife brought our daughter-in-law's big suitcase. After a couple of hours of strenuous packing, we thought of retiring for the night for the early-morning journey. My better half, a novice in matters of technology, twirled the key code on the modern bag out of curiosity. What followed was a two-hour nightmare to decode the lock, but to no avail. At last the lock was broken open and the stuff shifted to a vintage bag with no agonies of a key code. The day is not far when the voting to elect our leaders would be based on a user ID and password, very susceptible to hacking.


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