When technology bytes

| Staff Columnist

WebSTAC is whack…or at least, logging into it is nowadays.  Freshmen and
transfer students are most likely unfamiliar with the days of yore, that
much simpler time before the invention of the almighty “WUSTL key”.  For
everyone else, though, you have to admit it: the current password system

is a nightmare.
It isn’t just that you have to change your password frequently (every three months, I believe, though it seems more often than that), or that once you’ve used a password once it can’t be recycled. No, the problem is even more basic: coming up with a password that fits all the required parameters is about as complicated as solving a Rubik’s Cube. Yes, there are multiple “solutions”—in fact a great many—but the amount of time spent in order to reach some “proper” combination of letters, numbers, and—worst of all—special symbols (such as @ or $) is utterly ridiculous.
I’ll admit that, with all the problems in the world today, this is pretty far down on the totem pole. But it’s also incredibly inefficient, and most importantly makes absolutely no sense. Passwords are supposed to protect others from viewing your private details (though hackers nowadays can easily get in if they want), yet at the same time, they’re intended to be things that are easy for you to remember. I have accounts on Yahoo, YouTube, IMDB, and a slew of other Web sites, and among all of them I’m allowed to use the same one or two passwords. As a result, by now these key words are imbedded in my mind. When I’m arbitrarily altering letters, numbers and special symbols for no other reason than to fill up the “password strength” box, all the WUSTL Key is doing is ensuring that I’ll forget it by the next time I need to get on WebSTAC.
The most disconcerting part of all this, though, is that there’s no plausible explanation for why such a complicated password is necessary. For starters, just consider what “valuable information” you can find on WebSTAC. There’s the “course listings” tab, but I’d gladly tell anyone my schedule. My grades are on there too, but honestly I don’t care—in an economy where Ivy League grads are a dime a dozen at fast food restaurants (and I don’t mean they’re stopping in for a quick lunch), GPA could just as well be MIA from my transcript and I’d probably still have the same chance of getting hired. Last but not least in this top-secret trio, there’s my bill: tuition, room and board, meal plan and the like. As for that, I say go right ahead and check it out. “Ooh” and “Ahh” at my shocking trips to the bookstore or even—“gasp”—my weekly use of the washing and drying machines in my dorm. While you’re looking at all this, why don’t you go ahead and pay the whole thing off your own credit card too. I’d appreciate it very much.
By now, I’m pretty sure you’re laughing your head off at someone who apparently can’t just come up with a random combination of characters, write it down on a piece of paper and stick that paper somewhere safe. Well, to tell the truth, I’m paranoid (not lazy, as I’m sure you thought) when it comes to keeping any sort of personal info outside my head—but that isn’t the point. I’m all for taking precautions to protect individual privacy, but when accessing my bank account is easier than logging onto WebSTAC, there just might be a problem.

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