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Saturday, January 27, 2007  

ID This

I normally avoid writing about my day job because I don't want to lose it, but after the week I've had I'm not sure I care any more.

I exaggerate, but still. One of the benefits offered at work is non-taxable reimbursement accounts for parking, dependent care, health care, and so on. It saves you money, but you have to periodically fill out these forms for everything and fax them to some service center in Atlanta. The forms are a pain in the ass. I'm not sure exactly how much I'm saving in taxes, but I'd gladly pay double that amount to anyone who'd be willing to deal with these forms for me.

Actually it wasn't so bad once I developed a filing system for the forms and the receipts that sometimes have to accompany them. One might even say I had almost streamlined the process. But obviously this wouldn't do, so the bank changed things.

First of all, the company put the online resource for keeping track of our balances and reimbursements behind a new security wall. This meant that I'd been assigned a new user ID for this system, but I had no idea what it was. None of the other user ID's I already have for the company's nine other systems seemed to work.

Some research revealed that the new user ID could be found on my paycheck. The only problem is that I have direct deposit and my company is too cheap to provide me with a printout of my semi-monthly compensation (which, fair play to them; I usually just threw the things out unless I expected to close on a new mortgage in the next few months, which doesn't happen often). Fortunately, it's possible to view my pay advisory online. I just had to go to another intranet site and pull it up. Did I know my user ID and password for that site? I did not.

Fortunately, all I had to do to find it was log onto the primary intranet site. This is something I only have to do about once every 36 days or so. Which is inconvenient, given the fact that passwords are set to expire after 35 days, and you don't get prompted to create a new one. So for the first of many times this year, I called the 1internal 1-800 to have my intranet password reset.

This brings one to a whole new level of humiliation, because the password reset requires you to navigate an automated phone tree that identifies you by voice recognition. So one periodically hears one's coworkers reciting seemingly random numbers into their handsets as one walks by. Then the evil robot lady at the other end tells you how many of the company's fifteen systems you have passwords and IDs for, and how many of those twenty-two systems you can reset your password. And then she makes you say, "Intranet ID" to her, out loud. And then she gives you a new password, which she promises will be effective within the next few days.

But I prevailed. Armed with my new intranet ID, I did some digging and found my ID and password for the pay advisory site. Then I viewed my pay advisory and found my brand-new numeric employee ID number. With that information, I was able to register for the new reimbursement site, including setting my own password. Which, to be honest, I'm really not sure I remember what it is any more.

All this User ID and password malarkey is especially annoying given the company's paranoia about information security. There are all these rules about passwords: never write them down or record them anywhere, never share them with anyone, never move your lips when you're typing them in, avoid using names and dictionary words in favor of more "secure" codes like "Q@3&7-~" and "$_fg^/*Z?;2". Even this wouldn't be so bad if all of the various password-requiring systems around here didn't require differently formatted passwords from each other. Some require two numbers, some only one, some alpha only, and a few are case-sensitive. And you can't complain because you're not supposed to use the same password for more than one system anyway, even though there are about thirty-eight of them.

But the important thing is that I finally printed out some new forms (they also require some new information that I had to research in order to complete them) and faxed them off. And it only took me half the day. Now I just have to wait for the reimbursement funds to appear in my checking account, and being dreading the next time I have to do this.

But at least I have a new intranet ID, right? This will come in handy next time I need it.

Yesterday I tried to sign into a new system that we're supposed to start using. I asked a coworker if we'd been assigned a department-wide ID and password for this system, and she told me that we just needed to use our existing IDs and passwords for the primary intranet. No problem, I thought. I just reset mine the day before. I typed it in. It didn't work.

When I called the evil robot lady for the fourth time in two days to reset my intranet password for the second time in two days, I learned something interesting: the voice recognition software works even when you're choked with rage.


posted by M. Giant 9:49 PM 8 comments


OH MY GOD. Yes. Just tell me how many characters are required, how many numbers, and if it's case-sensitive. Then I could probably come up with the right password BEFORE the system locks me out. I don't want to write my passwords down, but I don't really have a choice.

By Blogger Cori, at January 27, 2007 at 11:00 PM  

Hee. The two user IDs and passwords I have at work open up either the computer charting system (with lots of delicious sensitive patient info) or the narcotics cabinet. You know, where we keep the drugs that one could either sell for a lot of money or use to kill somebody. What did they do when I started? Handed me a piece of paper with the IDs and passwords written down on them already.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 27, 2007 at 11:55 PM  

I'm so happy right now. I have about six passwords but they are all based on the same inital bits and pieces (like ABC1 can also be ABC12 or ABC13 etc.) I just need to remember which iteration I'm on, and of course I'm on a different one for each system.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 28, 2007 at 7:06 AM  

A trick I learned from a colleague ages ago: use a mnemonic sentence that involves a number, like "Trash's Name Is Judy And She Is 30" would be tnijasi30. Or "My 2 Cats Are Both 12" for m2cab12. It looks like gibberish but you can actually remember the sentence. Or at least I can. Being creative and all you can probably even come up with sentences ABOUT the system in question, like "Reinbursement System Sucks 12 Ways From Sunday" resulting in rss12wfs.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 28, 2007 at 7:38 AM  

This is hilarious. I go through the same thing to pay my cell phone bill or access my credit card rewards. I like the mnemonic suggestion: it's worth a try.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 28, 2007 at 11:31 AM  

I work at a bank and we literally have about 27 systems that have different userIDs, passwords and requirements for each. At one point, I gave up and put them on a notecard and hid the notecard. Verboten, of course, but seriously, after calling our friendly password reset robot after getting locked out of my system for the tenth time in three weeks, I couldn't take it anymore. It's even more fun when you lock yourself out on the phone with a customer..."one moment, Mr Smith...oh, ARGH!"


By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 29, 2007 at 7:22 AM  

Yes indeed, like everyone else, I am driven to completely derail the point of all the complicated password application mess by writing them all down because I CANNOT REMEMBER which goes where, EVER, otherwise.

I was just thinking this morning, "There has got to be some point where information security actually becomes less effective by being too complicated." It sounds like we have all reached that point.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 29, 2007 at 9:57 AM  

Oh. My. God. I think I used to work for them. The scary thing is, there's really more than one company with stellar inefficiency.

The only thing you can do is drink. Or quit.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 1, 2007 at 4:12 AM  

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