PASSWORDS were  once only used in bad  spy films. Or by  children who formed their  own Black Hand Gang and  wore their blazers  backwards. Or in the army  when a guard said, “Who  goes there?”
These days, everybody has  passwords for mobile phone,  voicemail and phone banking, and  any number for email and social  networking sites, internet  membership sites and online bank  accounts.
Most people, it seems, tend to opt  for simple. Password, believe it or  not, is the top password in use  online. So the accounts of people  who use that would be easy meat  for a hacker from a Sunday  newspaper of dubious morality or  an international scamming ring  based in Volgograd.
I made a list the other day and  found I had 42 passwords. Those  for innocuous sites such as Hertz  or iTunes are fairly simple but they  are much more complex for bank  or credit card or sites where  finance or my identity is at risk.
Many people faced with having  lots of passwords, may choose the  same one. They often choose  something that is easy to  remember. This is not a good idea.  Also short is bad and long is  good. Rover is not good.  Existentialism22 is good.
A combination of upper and  lower case letters and numbers  that stretch up to 18 or 20  characters is best of all.
I checked the strength of my  passwords at the site How  Secure Is My Password  and got a shock. Oo-er.  I’d better think again.
The site tells you how  long it would take to crack a  password using a desk top  computer. My simple passwords  would fall in 32 seconds. The one  for my bank account – which I  thought was rather clever – would  last 13 minutes. The password for  my credit card, which is just  random numbers, would take less  than a second.
This is sobering stuff.
The one for my website is the best  of the lot and would take about  8,000 years to crack. Rover, by the  way, would take less than a second  to fall. Existentialism22 would  take a billion years.
So it is all change on the password  front for me. How strong are  yours?

READER Roy Bottomley has  forwarded to me an amusing  version of the song My  Favourite Things which is a  parody about getting old.
Dame Julie Andrews herself  has sadly never sung it: the  Oscar winner hasn’t had her  once glorious singing voice  since surgery to remove  non-cancerous nodules on her  vocal cords in 1997.
She later sued  the New York  surgeons, winning a large  out-of-court settlement.
Dame Julie is in her  seventies by the way, and I  suspect she might smile at the  sentiments.
Thanks, Roy, for thinking it  might apply to me. Perhaps we  could all sing the first two  verses together, in the style of  Dame Julie:
Botox and nose drops and needles for  knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental  fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favourite  things...
Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids  and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in  glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with  swings,
These are a few of my favourite  things...

When the pipes leak, When the bones  creak, When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favourite things,  and then I don't feel so bad.

I WANT to know how to get out  of recession and solve Britain’s  financial problems? Then why  not invoke the Patriotic  Retirement Plan? Several  readers have sent me a copy.  The latest are Sue Crofts of  Golcar and Neil Staples.
It advises the Prime Minister to  use it instead of giving billions of  pounds to banks that, it says, will  only squander the money on  lavish parties and unearned  bonuses. Here is the Plan:
There are about 10 million  people over 50 in the work force.  Pay them £1 million each  severance for early retirement  with the following stipulations: 
They MUST retire. Ten million  job openings – unemployment  fixed.
They MUST buy a new British  car. Ten million cars ordered - car  industry fixed.
They MUST either buy a  house or pay off their mortgage –  housing crisis fixed.
They MUST send their kids to  school/college/university – crime  rate fixed.
They MUST buy £100 worth of  alcohol and tobacco a week –  and there’s your money back in  duty/tax

IF we are going out at night, my  wife Maria does two things.
I’ll just put the telly on for the  dog,” she says.
And she also leaves a light on.
She believes the TV will  provide company for Lucky while  we are out and that the light will  extend the dog’s day until we get  home when we switch it off and  go to bed, which will be an  indication to the dog that it is  time to go to sleep.
This is Maria’s logic because  the welfare of the dog is of  paramount importance.
The fact that Lucky sleeps  anyway, with the light on or off, is  neither here nor there. It’s not as  if she settles down to a good  book once we are out of the door.
“By heck, I hope they  remember to leave the light on.  I’ve just to a good bit in The  Hound Of The Baskervilles.”
The television is a different  matter. Maria often leaves it on  with the sound muted.
“Why not have the sound on?”  I say.
“Don’t be silly. Lucky is deaf.”
Maybe if we just turned the  sound up a bit? Or switched on  the subtitles?
It might save Lucky having to  ask that cocker spaniel on the  field what's been going on in Corra.