There are possibly hundreds of software based ‘password mangers’ and perhaps dozens of USB gadgets and/or Bluetooth connectors that promise ultimate security against hacker attacks.

Here’s a quick way to cull the herd:

Does their solution depend on the cloud? Given the number of incidents where allegedly super secure sites have been hacked – including every major bank chain as well as most government agencies, corporate behemoths and a few well known password managers  – counting on the ether to keep much of anything safe is more than a bit innocent. Build a target in cyberspace storing millions of users digital credentials and you can be sure it will be attacked by hackers everywhere on the planet. And as noted previously, the real experts don’t get caught and leave no trace.

How about if their magic relies on a master password? It makes no difference what too cute/clever mnemonic is employed, if a single code for all your valuables was a smart solution, why do we – in real life – carry something separate to secure our car, home, bank account, office, beach house, ski chalet, wall safe and lawnmower? The answer is humans instinctively know a single key is not wise. Perhaps as a species we learned the folly of placing all the eggs in one basket?

But what about the cutting edge creations built on Bluetooth for wireless and USB thumb drives for insert-able solutions? (We’ll get to the real showstopper for both in a second.) Begin by pondering a simple question: would a truly trustworthy organization allow anyone to stick anything into one of their digital devices? Not likely. If you think they might, ask your banker. OK, that’s one reason a USB toy is a non starter. What about the exotic Bluetooth? There’s no need to plugin — so the unknown insertion issue is out of the way. However, Bluetooth’s short range wireless requires a receiver. What institution in their right mind simply opens their digital doors to an unknown signal? It’s not likely.

But the real deal killer is much more fundamental… As creatures we’ve been known to lose trinkets –  or they get stolen. Either way, there goes the all access, master key, password manager.

Selling flashy, high tech baubles has been going on since the earliest DOS PCs and dongles. Reality: like the equally over-heated hype of bio-metrics, it’s much too easy for the unethical – or even the well meaning but naive salesperson – to baffle a prospective buyer with fantasy about an esoteric whiz-bang invention.

It’s more honest and reliable to count on the time tested ability of a human to spot the familiar face of a friend or family remember in a crowd of strangers. No gadget needed beyond the smartphone they already own and their memories formed since childhood.

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