Users deal with increasing password burdens by writing them down

Incident Date: December 2004
Incident Location: USA

In interviews with several professionals about their password practices, Wall Street Journal writers Scott Thurm and Mylene Mangalindan verified the fears of many security professionals: people are writing down their passwords.

One example is Kate Prior, whose job involves monitoring drug trials. When she begins work each morning she must enter eight different passwords, each of which must have at least eight characters, and many require use of both letters and numbers. She must select new passwords every three months.

A sticky note listing her passwords and attached to her computer is the way Ms. Prior ensures that she doesn’t mistype a password. She acknowledges that information technology personnel at her employer yell at her, but prefers their irritation to the task of calling the help desk to reset a forgotten password.

Petri Darby, a marketing manager at a Houston law firm, also used the sticky note technique in the past. However, his stack of notes grew as the number of passwords increased. So, he changed to a new format of writing passwords on a piece of paper kept in his wallet. But over time his list passwords continued to grow and the paper became unreadable. Mr. Darby expressed frustration with his need to maintain the quantity of passwords now necessary to go about his professional and personal life.

Alex Ramsey, chief executive of LodeStar Universal, stores her roughly 75 passwords in a computer files named "Password". As a precaution, she also prints out a copy and hides it under her keyboard.

Candace Jenny, a Silicon Valley engineer, is another person who makes written lists for her passwords. She stores one copy on her computer and another in a notebook she keeps in an unlocked file cabinet.

Story Sources

Title: Increased Security Measures Create a Password Overload
Author: Scott Thurm, Mylene Mangalindan
Date: 12/14/2004
Publication: The Wall Street Journal
Publication Location: USA
Publication URL:

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