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September 06, 1995 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-06

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The Michigan Daiy - Wednesday. September 6, 1995 -17A

Psychologists say
passwords lead to
memory overload

Not what he seems
Felix Urioste, 34, right, leaves a Farmington, Utah, courthouse with his attorney after entering guilty pleas to communications fraud and forgery yesterday. Urloste
posed as a woman during a three-year marriage toan unsuspecting man.
Storks in shealthy environment

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - The automated
teller machine hums, people in line be-
hind you fidget, andyou rack your mind
again for the correct secret code. Is it
the date of your daughter's birthday?
The combination to an old high school
locker? A favorite lottery number?
Good luck remembering.
Confusion is becoming a fact of
American life as people accumulate
passwords and access codes like a jani-
tor collects keys.
There now are passwords for office
equipment, passwords for cellular tele-
phones and, of course, passwords for
computer networks. Some people even
have passwords to electronic organiz-
ers where they keep track of all their
District ofColumbia lawyer Thomas
Warrick has so many different code
words and numbers to remember that
he recently drew a blank at an ATM in
Houston and had to borrow $20 for cab
Tshya James, of Alexandria, Va.,
was frozen out of her office phone
mail one day after forgetting which
code to use.
"It's ridiculous. I hate it," said Rich-
ard Bowman, chief financial officer for
First Virginia Banks Inc. He has at least
six computer passwords, in addition to
codes for the doors of his Mercury
Sable, his home security system and
several credit cards.
"Each one individually isnobigdeal,"
he said. "But cumulatively, it's over-
The distress should be no surprise.
More people than ever are using com-
puters and on-line networks that de-
mand security precautions. More banks,
telephone companies and businesses
are offering electronic services to make
life easier - as long as people agree to
use passwords.
But security-conscious administra-
tors cringe at easy-to-remember com-
binations such as 1111 or those based
on the names of children, pets or pet
"Kung fu" and "Trekkie" just don't
cut it anymore. Hackers can crack such
passwords almost as easily as they crack
their kns;c kIcs. They use computer pro-
grams that can test millions of number
or word ermutations to unlock ac-
cont s.
"On most computer systems, about
three-quarters of all people have pass-
words that can be easily guessed by
others" siid Doug Tygar, a professor
ofe ompuier security at Carnegie Mellon

And so people feel compelled to come
up with nonsense jumbles of letters,
numbers and symbols, passwords that
resemble nothing so much as a cartoon
cuss. But psychologists say the prob-
lem is that people generally aren't cut
out to remember random strings ofnum-
bers and the like.
"It is a major problem," said Psy-
chology Prof. Kent Norman, director of
the Laboratory for Automation Psy-
chology at the University of Maryland.
"Machines are very good at coding num-
bers and text, We're very bad at it."
The need for passwords is real. As
people continue to flock to the Internet
and other computer services, security
and privacy issues have become more
complicated than ever. In the last five
years, for instance, the number of intru-
sions into computer systems has ex-
At Carnegie Mellon's Computer
Emergency Response Team in Pitts;
burgh, one of several dozen sites world-
wide that tracks such incidents, the num-
ber of cases reported went from 132 in
1989 to 2,341 last year. Each case could
involve hundreds or thousands of com-
puters, said Terry McGillen, a spokes-
man for the team.
"It essentially mirrors the explosive
growth of people on the Internet," he
said. "Information is valuable. People
have to pay attention to the risks."
Companies are trying to devise better
forms of security. Some are working to
create a single "password card" that
would be used like an ATM card for
identification on all systems. The prob-
lem is if you lose it, someone else could
take on your identity. Others believe
the only sure form of identification is
something biologitral, such as a finger-
print or a voice print.
Rest assured, at some point some-
thing easier will come along.
"The only solution is to get rid of
passwords," said Donald Norman, vice
president for advanced technology at
Apple Computer and author of "Things
That Make Us Smart." "The very thing
that makes passwords hard to crack
makes them hard to remember. ..
Memory is just not sufficient."
In the meantime, people will con-
tinue to cope in their own ways. Many
simply use one password for every-
thing. Eric Jacobsen, for instance, uses
the name of a favorite childhood food,
varying it slightly from account to ac-
"It is overload. It's getting to be too
much," said Jacobsen, a technician for
the Public Broadcasting Service. "I had
to come up with a system."

Los Angeles Times
LEJDY, Poland - The farmers in
this faraway village in northernPoland
live in unkempt homes, many without
running water or even a coat of paint.
Their rickety barns look like tired old
men, leaning and groaning in the after-
noon wind.
But the poor people of Lejdy have
something ofuntold value that even the
poshest European towns and villages
cannot claim: About 60 white storks, by
last count, call this place home, more
than live in all of Belgium, Denmark
and Holland.
With autumn approaching, the annual
migration of the storks to Africa is about
to occur. In hundreds of villages like this
one spanning the continent, thousands
ofthebigbirds-among the mostloved
creatures in Europe-are assembling in
fields and grassy meadows in anticipa-
tion of the 8,000-mile trek.
This year, the exodus carries special
meaning, because it signals the end of a
two-year effort to tally the stork popu-
lation from Portugal to Uzbekistan. The
international census, the fifth since
1934, is expected to involve 40 coun-
tries, making it one ofthe most compre-
hensive bird-watching undertakings
Environmentalists and scientists
throughout Europe are eagerly await-
ing the results, which will be compiled
by a German conservation group over
the next few months.
"It serves as a wonderful indicator of
how the environment is doing every-
where," said Mariola Sokolska of Pro
Natura, a Polish environmental organi-
zation overseeing the count here. "The
stork thrives in areas that are clean and
rich with life. If the stork can't make it
somewhere, then we know other ani-
mals and plants are in trouble as well."
For decades, the news in most of
Europe has not been good for the stork.
Intense farming in Western Europe, at-
tributed by many environmentalists to
the agricultural policies of the Euro-
pean Union, has robbed the bird of its
lush wetlands habitat in countries such
as France, Germany and Denmark.
The last census, in 1984, showed
declining stork populations almost ev-
erywhere in the European Union. Al-
though interim tallies over the past de-
cade have signaled improvementin sev-
eral countries, few have surpassed the
depressed levels documented in 1984.
A noteworthy exception has been
Spain, a European Union member whose
stork population has more than doubled
since the census 11 years ago. Environ-
mentalists attribute the turnaround to
the end of aprotracted drought in west-
ern Africa, where the Spanish storks
spend their winters, and the introduc-
tion of irrigated farming in Spain. In
most of Europe, marshes have been
drained to expand farmland; in Spain,
dry, uncultivated land is being flooded
"It is one of the few cases where
agricultural policies have improved the
conditions for survival of a species,"
said Holger Schulz, director of the In-

The stork thrives in areas that are
clean and rich with life. If the stork
can't make it somewhere, then we
know other animals and plants are in
trouble as well". f
- Mariola Sokolska
Pro Natura environmental organization member

other with pirouettes and noisy saluta-
tions, and show filial love and devotion.
They also seek out human compan-
ionship, usually building their massive
nests-sometimes weighing more than
a ton - on rooftops, utility poles and
chimneys. In Lejdy, some buckling farm
buildings are laden with as many as
four of the giant baskets.
Tracking the fortunes of the three-
foot-tall birds is deemed so important
in Poland that Sokolska and her assis-
tant, Gregorz Polutrenko, have spent 10
weeks on bicycles combing the coun-
tryside to count them. Neither orni-
thologist owns a car, and Pro Natura
cannot afford to buy or rent one.
The two have camped along the road-
side, shared meals with curious villag-
ers and promoted their dream of estab-
lishing a stork center in Poland, all
while pedaling 40 miles a day.
In general, storks have managed bet-
ter on the far side of the former Iron
Curtain, largely because backward
farming practices in non-European
Union countries - mainly Poland,

Belarus and Ukraine-have preserved
the natural landscape. Storks there find
wetlands lush with frogs, snakes, mice,
rabbits and other food.
There is considerable concern, how-
ever, that many Eastern European coun-
tries will try to copy the farming patterns
of their western neighbors in a rush to
gain membership in the European Union.
In such a case, ornithologists warn, vast
nature preserves would have to be set
aside if the birds are to survive.
"There is also the problem of chemi-
cals and fertilizers," said Bogdan
Kasperezyk, an ornithologist in north-
eastern Poland, which has the largest
concentration of storks in Europe. "But
fornow, the situation in Poland is better
than ever, because the bankruptcy of
state-owned farms has allowedthe fields
to grow wild. So the habitat is better,
not worse."
.Poland's estimated 30,500 pairs ac-
count for about a third of all the adult
storks on the continent. The country
benefits from its hospitable country-
side but also from its geographic loca-

tion at the center oftwo migration paths.
Storks in Eastern Europe follow a
southeasterly route to their wintering
grounds in Africa, skirting large bodies
of water whenever possible. They fol-
low the eastern shore of the Mediterra-
nean Sea. Those in Western Europe
cross the Strait of Gibraltar en route to
their winter homes in western Africa.
The clash between nature and civili-
zation has become a serious problem in
some Polish towns, where electrocu-
tion is the leading cause of death for the
birds. Pro Natura has launched a pro-
gram to move nests from the tops of
dangerous utility poles.
In Lejdy, there is no money to erect
platforms or to reinforce sinking roof-
tops. Nearlyteveryhouse, barn and out-
building in the village of 12 families
carries at least one nest, and most of the
structures have been threatened by the
But barely a harsh word is spoken
about the birds.
"I have four children and 10 grand-
children, and on a farm, that means.
somethimg,' said Janina K ozier, proudly
surveying her seven nests. "Of course
the storks helped!"



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