Passwords Still the Bane of the Help Desk's Existence

 
 
By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-03-07 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

What clogs the phone lines and causes the most headaches for help desk professionals? Without a doubt, they already know: forgotten passwords. Confirmation came this week in the form of an IT Headache Index released March 5 by SupportSoft, a technology problem resolution company, which found that the cause of 75 percent of help desk calls was employee forgetfulness.

In evaluating nearly 2 million call logs from more than 20 large, multinational companies, to determine which issues were driving the most calls into the enterprise IT help desk, the Index found five major themes.

System issues, ranging from hardware problems, memory problems to system performance, caused 16 percent of calls. Enterprise applications, including custom applications, accounted for another 16 percent of calls. Twelve percent of calls could be traced to connectivity issues, including remote access setup and VPM complains, and 11 percent were related to e-mail issues, from settings problems to send and receive issues.

Yet, the single largest group of calls--20 percent of them--were because an employee had "password problems," including resets and unlocks for applications.

How do IT professionals feel about this? Does the fact that everyone forgets a password now and then make them feel more patience and understanding toward the offending employee? The answer is largely no. Increasingly, remembering passwords is considered more than just something to do to stay in your help desk's good graces; it is a basic responsibility of any computer-facing job.

"You should know how to create, remember and change secure passwords for all personal accounts, applications and resources on the network," Richard Tomlinson, director of records and registration and assistant professor at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, in Harrisburg, Pa., told eWEEK.

Have trouble remembering a password? Writing it down is fine, but then put it away discreetly. Don't announce to passers-by your low regard for network security. "We see people with their passwords on a sticky note on their monitor all the time. 'Because I wanted to remember it!' they'll say. But what they meant was they didn't want to be inconvenienced by having to look it up," said Tomlinson.

Yet whatever you do, IT professionals will tell you, don't say that your password "somehow got changed" as they will always know better.

"My favorite user complaint is that somehow their password was changed. Don't tell anyone, but whenever we have free time, our favorite game is to randomly change user passwords--like we really have time to do that. [Just] tell me you forgot your password. It happens, and it's nothing to be ashamed of," said Howard Graylen, a technical analyst at Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance, of Ridgeland, Miss.

 
 
 
 
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