I was standing at the checkout counter in a local convenience store post-run. I was still sweaty, and wet and had only my phone with me to pay. I’d done this dozens of time until today. It is Sunday morning and it was pretty busy. As I waited for the clerk to ring up my coffee, three more people got in line behind me. “1.05 please”. I whipped out my phone, clicked on the store app and got “Please login”. Seriously!? I have no idea what my login or password is.
I took my cup of coffee and stepped out of line so others that either knew their password or had cash could pay. I poked at the app and after a few guesses of likely passwords got past the login screen. But wait! Apparently the app has been “improved” and now requires a more secure password. Awesome. Let’s do it.
I withdrew further to the dining area and sat down. The app had now e-mailed me a security code to enter to be able to reset my password. Flipping between the app and my e-mail I began keying digits. 7-9-8 . . flip flip . . 2-1-3 . . flip flip . . 7-5-5. Submit. Processing. “The security code you entered is not valid. Please try again”. “Ratzafrazzinstupideverluvingoddarncomputerthingy”. Flip flip . . 7-9-8 . . . flip flip . . 2-1-3 . . flip flip . . 7-5-5 . . flip flip . . . SCROLL DOWN 2-7-1. Seriously!? I double checked the app to make sure it was for the convenience store card and not my stock broker or 401K account. Submit. Processing.
Okay. Now we are getting somewhere. I sipped some coffee (half gone by now) and watched a brand new display launch as the app restarted. I was prompted to enter a new password but there was a note. “Password requirements have changed. New password must contain both upper and lower case letters, at least one number, at least one special symbol, and a word from pages 75-110 of the Old Welsh Dictionary. Be sure to pick something you can remember”. Something I can remember!? I’m having trouble remembering where I parked the car or even if I have car and you want me to remember a 95 character password with numbers and letters and Welsh!? And this all to protect my $10 gift card I use to buy the occasional cup of coffee. Okay then . . .
I dutifully thought up a password and slowly keyed it in twice. I took a break part way to rest my thumbs and take a few more sips of coffee. The cup was getting pretty light. Submit. Processing. “You are almost there. We just need you to prove you are human.” I wasn’t really sure why this was necessary. Any machine or computer that existed when this process started would have long since been obsolete by now. As I waited for the “I’m not a robot” quiz to launch, I pictured a small, smoke-filled apartment in a slum somewhere in Moscow where Russian hackers dreamed of cracking convenience store apps. I suppose it is great fun to place an order for a biscuit with sausage, egg, and cheese from 10,000 miles away and snicker with a maniacal Russian accent knowing nobody will ever pick it up.
Finally, I was prompted for my challenge. It was fairly typical. There was a grid of pictures and I was to pick all the pictures that contained endangered warblers from the Guatemalan rain forest. Simple enough. I clicked all bird-like things in the pics and after several attempts got through the test. Apparently, I passed human muster. Finally, to make the password reset process easier in the future I was supposed to pick some security questions. I was given several choices:
- Calculate Pi to the 32 place.
- What was Robin Roberts’ ERA against lefties in the 1951 World Series?
- How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?
- What was the name of your kindergarten sweetheart’s mother’s childhood pet?
- What is pig latin for “Password”?
Needless to say I chose the last one and was finally bestowed access to my convenience store account. “Would you like to login now?” I drained the last sip of coffee and stared blankly at my phone. “Um. Yes please.” I clicked OK. “Enter password”. Password? Oh @#$#.