There are more web services in our future, and your entrance to each of them will be controlled by a name and a password. If you don’t already have some method of tracking your passwords, it’s time to get organized.

Microsoft intended its Passport service (now called Windows Live ID) to be the single sign-on for all web services – one password and all the services on the Internet would open themselves up to you in a secure way. Unfortunately, no one outside Microsoft was interested and the idea languished for several years. Now it is becoming important to understand the Windows Live ID system as Microsoft rolls out more web services of its own. Among other things, your Windows Live ID underlies your subscription to Windows Live OneCare, your use of Microsoft’s instant messaging programs, and the new online file storage and sharing service.

Windows Live ID is a free authentication system – supply your e-mail address, pick a password, and you have a Windows Live ID. Go to the Windows Live ID web site and log in! Set up an account if you don’t have one; or, confirm that you know your password if you already have an ID. Microsoft has set up a new portal for all of its Windows Live services that might be useful after you’ve logged in with your Windows Live ID.

But of course that’s not all. Paypal, Google Checkout, your bank’s online site – passwords that control direct access to your money. Amazon, eBay, all the other shopping sites – passwords that represent more real money. E-mail – a password for the most significant communications in your business life (and frequently your personal life). Company login names and passwords – crucially important for the security of your business, and life-or-death if your business permits remote access to the company network.

Like most people, you use the same password over and over, don’t you? But sometimes you have to vary it for a site that requires six or eight characters, or a mix of upper and lower case, or some symbols or numbers. You’re drowning in passwords.

Even if you use the same password repeatedly, you should have a list of where you’ve used it – I expect a new type of identity theft where a password is compromised and the bad guys visit Amazon and the rest of the major shopping sites, plugging in the e-mail address and password to see if it works.

A piece of paper, a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet. They’re not secure, but we’re talking about basic record-keeping – do it the easy way if that’s the only way it will get done.

There are dozens of programs to help you track passwords. I started using eWallet years ago – simple and uncluttered. I know several people who swear by RoboForm. Do a Google search for “password manager” and you’ll see more. Well, you’ll get a response with 145 million pages, but Google is like that.

The earlier you start, the less you’ll be scrambling through old file folders and filling in online forms that start, “Forgot your password?”

Share This