BOFH: Password HELL. For you, mate, not for me

Letting go never felt so good

Episode 1 "Okay, I'll just need your username and password to verify this," the customer rep tells me.

"You know my username." I respond "I just told you."

"Yes, but we need to verify that you have access to your account."

"I told you the answer to my secret phrase question."

"The secret phrase is only used to verify your identity, not access your account."

"You just confirmed all the details of my account – so you're already accessing my account."

"We're looking AT your account but we're not IN your account. We can't operate on your account unless we're logged into your account."

"So what would happen if I forgot my password?"

"If you forgot your password you'd go to the forgot-my-password link and it'd email you a new one."

"What if my email address has changed and I couldn't get the new password?"

"Then we would need to create you a new account, close out your old one, and transfer all your records over to your new account."

"So there's no administrative way of accessing my account?"


"So how would you get the records from my old account if you need my password to get into it?"

"Uh... ... We just need your password ... to access your account."

I'm now at the broken-record part of the customer support cycle, where all roads lead back to the same question. I know it's not this poor guy's fault that their system doesn't have an administrative interface but my sympathy only goes so far.

"Your system told me that I should keep my password private."

"Not from us, though."

"It told me that you would never ask for my password."

"On emails. We would never ask for it on emails – but YOU rang US."

"But I clicked on a checkbox in the sign-on form saying that I would never disclose my password to anyone."

"But not customer support."

This could be a trap. In his shoes, with a particularly annoying caller I'd probably hold out for their password then void their account for a breach of the security contract.

"Banana47" I lie. "Capital B"

I hear a clicking sound and then:

"No, that password doesn't seem to work."

So at least it's not a ploy to shut me out permanently...

"Hmm. I'll need to look at my password book."

"You... have a password book?" he asks.

"Of course I do! Encrypted, obviously – because I'm an IT professional. What, do you think I just have one password which I use for everything?"

"No, I'm not suggesting that."

"A good thing too, because I have three passwords I use for everything – Low, Medium and High Security."

"And I'm assuming that this is low security?"

"No, work is low security, this is medium and all the personal stuff I care about is high."

"Work is LOW?!" he gasps.

"Of course it is. It used to be Medium High, but then I realised that there was no point so I just went to low. One capital, some lowercase, 2 numbers."

"Like Banana47."

"Yeah, that was our admin password for about two years."


"Yeah, you'd think it'd be an issue but we have people using their surname with an incrementing two digit number – kept on a bit of paper under their keyboards in case they forget their name."

"Don't you enforce password security?"

"Here? No, we implemented it and a bunch of other security measures but then we got told to turn them all off because it's hard for people to remember their password when it changes every six months. So there's no complexity and a two-year lifetime. The only time one of the execs on the top floor changes their password outside of this process is when they start up extramarital relationship in the building and don't want their PA to find out."

"So the PA doesn't have access to their email?"

"Sure they do. But that's the level of technical acumen we have on the sixth floor."

"So what is your password?" he asks.

"Hang on, I'll login and change it. Okay, it's Banana48." I lie, again.

"I thought you said this wasn't low?"

"Yeah, but after a while the futility of security just gets to you and the struggling stops. It's a bit like drowning – quite satisfying."

"How can drowning be satisfying?"

"It depends on whom you're drowning and how long the struggling goes on for."

"Are you saying you drown people?!"

"I don't know. Are you monitoring this call for customer service purposes?"

"Uh.......... no."

"Then no, of course I don't."

"What if I'd said we DID monitor calls?"

"Oh, in that case I definitely don't."

"Ah. So, your password?" he asks.

"I'll need your home address to tell you that."

"Why would you need my home address?"

"So I can verify it's really you."

"But you don't know me."

"I will if I have your home address. Do you have a pool, or a bath or something?"


There are easier ways to get your name removed from a mailing list, but nowhere near as satisfying... ®

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