Vexed by Visa


Modern life has conveniences our grandparents would have killed for. We can do almost everything at the touch of a button, and all we have to do, in most cases, is remember a simple code.
But it’s not simple, is it? Turning on a computer in the morning, you might have to log in to your work email, your personal email, Facebook, Twitter, and maybe a shared server system. All requiring separate passwords. That’ll be after you turn on your phone and put the PIN in, and possibly after buying a cup of coffee, requiring another PIN.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been locked out of the App store because I’ve forgotten my Apple login. And every time you get locked out, you have to change it, making life even more awkward.
Currently – and this might not be a bad thing – I have no idea what it is, so am unable to buy music or apps. Just think of it as a kind of inadvertent savings scheme.
Apple are particularly awkward, because they are prescriptive about how your password is composed. You can’t just make it your dog’s name, or your first class teacher’s initials, or your townland. No, it has to be something that wouldn’t look out of place on the blackboard in A Beautiful Mind, full of numbers, letters and symbols, with a nice mixture of capitals and lower case letters.
When it comes to paying for things, contactless payment is the next big thing, but for now we have to deal with PIN numbers. Different PIN numbers for every card. And if you bank online, a registration number for that, which is much longer.
And then there is Verified by Visa. One tweeter of my acquaintance gets her Verified by Visa code wrong so often that she has set her greeting on the reminder emails to ‘Greetings from annoying Visa’.
According to Visa, “Verified by Visa protects your card against unauthorised use and gives you peace of mind when shopping online.”
Well yes. But you can only have peace of mind if you can remember the code. If you can’t, you are almost guaranteed a high level of mindless rage. Is that the price of peace of mind?
It has pretty much stopped me using my Visa online altogether – surely not a commercial aim of the credit card company. With everything technology can do these days, surely there is somebody, somewhere, working on a way we can dispense with passwords altogether?
Apple – them again – have come up with a new keychain system, which allows you to store all your passwords for different websites within keychain, and use just one single code to access all of them. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but surely that makes it easier for someone to hack your passwords, not harder?
Online security is one thing, but I’ve always felt that if I was held up at knifepoint at an ATM, the prospective mugger would probably kill me out of pure frustration after I mistakenly locked them out of my account.
But maybe I am asking too much. After all, our grandparents learned off entire plays, books of poetry, and times tables in school – and many of them are still able to recite them, 70 years on. As well as that, they needed to remember how to pluck a chicken, measure a field, or how many potato seedlings would be needed to plant the kitchen garden.
So what has changed?
Well, the technology that makes our lives easier can also be harmful. Researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm recently found that the brain is easily overwhelmed by dealing with too much online information simultaneously, leading to a difficulty with long-term storage.
So the barrage of information being brought to you by twitter, email, etc, is harming your long-term memory. Maybe, just maybe, you’re better off forgetting those passwords altogether, and learning off a few poems instead. Grandad may not have had an iPad, but he was probably better off.

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