(CBS News) Right now, the word is PASSWORD. Some thoughts from contributor Faith Salie:
Remember when passwords were fun?
If that Password is easier to remember than your 17 other ones, join the club. But in order to join the club, you must choose a password that's between 6 and 8 characters in length; it must contain a number and a capital letter and a highly esoteric punctuation mark. [I recommend the guillemet ( « » ).]
We've got passwords for our computers, email, smartphones, banking, online shopping, wireless connections, frequent flier accounts, e-readers - each is supposed to be unique, for our own security.
But since it's impossible to remember every single one, it sometimes feels like the only person from whom your passwords are keeping you safe is YOU.
Creating a strong password nowadays can make you feel very vulnerable. There's a lot of judging going on.
There are many suggestions for creating a hacker-evading password, like replacing vowels with numbers to add what's called entropy (or, "3ntr0py").
Another tip is to abbreviate expressions, so that "the early bird gets the worm" becomes "tebgtW."
So: passwords are passe, and passphrases are the new black (uh, make that Bl@(k).
And passwords may not even protect us much from hackers, according to some experts. They call passwords "security theatre" -- like taking off your shoes at the airport. They just make us feel secure.
They also make us feel like we're losing our minds, especially when you forget your password. Those security questions feel like a therapy session:
"Name the street you lived on as a child." Well, what if your parents were divorced with joint custody? Are you now faced, in middle age, with choosing your dad's home over your mom's?
"What was your childhood nickname?" Um, I'm still recovering from body issues.
It may all lead to a profound existential crisis which leaves you yelling at your computer, "IT'S REALLY ME, I JUST FORGOT WHO I AM!!!"
However, there's some good news: At least in the future, you won't have to remember a password to start your car: Japanese engineers are working on a seat that uses a password you'll never forget: your inimitable buttprint.
So if you're password-weary, just sit tight.