My job as a federal judge sometimes requires me to work at home. Actually “requires” is too strong a word. To be more accurate, it is sometimes more convenient to work at home.
When I say “work,” I really mean access a computer because everything, and I mean everything, I do as a judge requires a computer. As I am employed by the government, I have been given (loaned) a Windows Surface Pro. That device is basically a small laptop computer with a real keyboard. I love that little machine, although this is not an ad for Microsoft.
My Surface Pro is connected to the Internet via WiFi. The WiFi comes through an expensive router that is, in turn, hooked to a cable modem. The WiFi signal is encrypted. So far, so good.
To work on the Surface Pro, assuming that it has latched on to the encrypted WiFi signal, the past practice required that I do a minimum of two things. First, I had to access the Surface Pro. That required an eight digit password to open the operating system. To access the desktop for the Surface Pro, I then had to input a second password that was 10 digits long.
Once I did the foregoing, the little machine would buzz and buzz and suddenly I could work at home with access to my work files and my work e-mail together with a whole bunch of other applications like our computerized docketing system and computerized calendar. To access this stuff, other passwords were also required. Thank goodness those had been preprogrammed into a “password keeper” that spared me the task of putting even more additional passwords into the computer.
But paranoia abounds. No doubt you have read all about our government’s computers being hacked by the Chinese and others. I suppose it is not paranoid if they really are out to get you. But, computer security can induce a sort of obsessive compulsive disorder where enough is never enough.
So, recently, my little Surface Pro was rendered useless unless I began to use 2FA. What is 2FA? That is an abbreviation for two-factor authentication.
Now, if I want to use the Surface Pro I must: (1) start the operating system for the computer with an eight digit password; (2) input a special username plus an additional special password that changes every 90 days; and (3) use a separate device (I would have to kill you if I told you what that device was) to obtain a randomly generated number that in turn must be input into the Surface Pro. If I go through all that I should be able to e-mail (encrypted, of course) the people at work via the Surface Pro to tell them that I’ll be late to work.*
Pay attention, here is the important segue.
As I near 70, I have begun to memorize serial 7s (counting backward from 100 by 7) so I can pass the cognitive tests I have volunteered to undergo at 75 to remain a judge. For some reason, the only thing I can remember is 2FA. Go figure.
*Below see what I did when I tried to log in last evening and the “password keeper” disappeared after I got to the desktop. Thus, I was unable to use the e-mail. That failure is probably not attributable to 2FA as I was able to make it to the desktop. But, who really knows. Back to IT, I will go in the morning.