Yellow Sticky of Doom Revisited

Our last post introduced The Yellow Sticky of Doom.

Talking with security experts about the Yellow Sticky of Doom shows that the situation isn’t entirely bleak. They agree that posting notes on a monitor – or the bottom of a keyboard – is bad.

However, they recognize that (somewhat secure) passwords are difficult to remember and will be written down. They point out that combining written passwords with physical security can actually be a reasonable approach.

If you write your password down and place it in a locked desk drawer you achieve a significant level of security. Getting the password out of sight is a good start – rifling through someones desk drawer is usually noticed. And if you lock your desk when you leave you are establishing a reasonable level of commercial security. And the good news about desk drawers is that they can’t be accessed through the Internet!

This approach assumes that you have a reasonable level of physical security for your business or home. If you don’t, password security may be the least of your concerns.

There are a variety of ways to increase physical security, such as control of keys, using secure filing cabinets, or using a safe. Something as simple as a Locking Bar for 4 Drawer File provides significantly enhanced physical security beyond that of common desk locks.

This is an area where you need to look at security from a higher level. Once you recognize that passwords by themselves provide poor security and that passwords will be written down you can develop a rational approach. Consider computers, networks, people, policies, and physical security together – develop a real security policy, rather than passing down edicts that don’t work.

You can’t abolish the Yellow Stick of Doom. But moving it into a locked desk drawer is probably good enough.

Next: Electronic Yellow Sticky of Doom

About Russell Doty

A technology strategist and product manager at Red Hat, working on the next generation of open source systems.
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