COLUMN: March 17, 2016

I LOGGED into Facebook, because life is too long, and I wanted to see which of my friends and relatives have poor opinions or a disappointing grasp of grammar and punctuation.

And Facebook did one of those things websites occasionally do when you log in, where they stop you from entering until you deal with some admin.

Usually it is something along the lines of: “Hey, Gary, why not give us your mobile telephone number? It would make your life so much easier if, for example, you forgot your password or… I don’t know JUST GIVE US YOUR NUMBER. COME ON, ALL YOUR OTHER FRIENDS HAVE YOUR NUMBER. THIS IS RIDICULOUS.”

At this point, I have to explain to Facebook or the website in question that while I like it, I don’t actually want to have a relationship with it, and eventually, grudgingly, I am allowed in to see which of my friends and relatives like wine or can’t believe it’s still only Tuesday.

But this time was different, and a little chilling. It was the equivalent of Facebook approaching me as I arrived with a sombre expression on its face and ushering me into a side room. It informed me that somebody had tried to access my account a few hours before from an unusual place and asked if it was me.

It told me that eight hours before this, somebody had tried to enter my account from China.

Now I know little for sure about my life at the moment, but among the few things I do know are that A) I had been asleep eight hours previously; and B) I have never been to China and certainly not eight hours before. I know that because I had to get up in the night to go to the toilet.

Admittedly there is very little damage that a person in China could do with my Facebook account, other than posting some Britain First or Minions pictures. But the implication was that somebody sinister had obtained my password, and the trouble is that, while I do not use the same password everywhere, I do tend to whistle a limited number of tunes.

So I had to change my password on Facebook, and then I had to remember every other website where I have used that password and change it there too.

The advice from internet security experts is that you should have a different password for every website you visit, and that you should change these passwords frequently.

But the reason I use recurring passwords across a number of websites is because I have a terrible memory, and so I have absolutely no idea if I have caught them all. This criminal genius in China could be causing mayhem on the British Risotto Guide forums in my name, and I would have literally no idea, because I had forgotten that once in 2011 I had to sign up to read a funny thing about risotto somebody had mentioned on Twitter.

The other advice from internet security experts is that passwords should be made up of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks – to that person on Facebook I know, punctuation marks are the little symbols on your keyboard that are not letters and numbers. They should not be recognisable words.

So not only are you supposed to be able to remember a different password for every site, but the passwords themselves have to be specifically designed not to be memorable?

How am I supposed to live in that sort of world? I cannot even tell you my own mobile phone number without getting it out of my pocket and looking for my contacts and then accidentally phoning somebody and then cancelling the call and then texting them to apologise.

The obvious answer is to keep your passwords in a safe place. But there is no such thing as a safe place. And if my diabolical foe in Jiangxi province got his hands on all of my passwords he could empty my bank account even faster than Tesco and my direct debits combined.

So I have decided to employ a sophisticated double-bluff. I am going to replace all my passwords with the name of my childhood pet Krypto the dog, or the word “password”. There is no way that anybody would believe that I would use those passwords, especially as I have just told all my readers I would use them. Or maybe it’s a triple-bluff, my devious Chinese nemesis. You will never know.

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