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Why you need a secure password

David Cambria is the manager of law department operations for Aon Corp. In an amusing piece on the Legal Technology website, he offers a list of 10 reasons why he and the attorneys he works with hate technology.

Despite some tongue-in-cheek legal terms ("Fraud in the Inducement," "False Imprisonment"), his list isn't exclusively for lawyers. His observations apply to anyone who's ever wondered what button to press next.

However, a section in Cambria's list entitled "Tortious Interference" underscores a problem in the way many employees view security. It reads:

Why do I shake with fear every time I must create another password? I have at least 700, all designed to manage my life and "make it easier." Why must they all be different -- with a special character, a capital letter and at least eight characters? Do passwords really need to be like unique snowflakes, designed to melt away on some arbitrary expiration date?

The short answer to Cambria's question: Yes, they do. Coming up with new passwords is a pain, but there's a good reason for doing so: Complex passwords help protect data, devices, and networks.

The importance of strong passwords shouldn't be lost on corporate legal offices. Attorneys, paralegals, and other office staff have access to clients' business secrets and other sensitive information, and an obligation to keep this data confidential. Other fields have similar privacy concerns and/or a mandate to protect information and systems, including healthcare, the defense industry, and banks.

Moreover, there are tools to help manage passwords. Even if a law office can't afford an enterprise-class data protection product, individual users can opt for Password Safe, a free Windows program that organizes and encrypts passwords and PINs. The open-source program even generates random, hard-to-crack passwords on the fly.

In a sense, passwords aren't really a technology issue. They are a fundamental security issue. I resent having to carry five keys in my pocket, but if I want to secure my front door, back door, garage, car, and bicycle, I don't have a choice.

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