Wet Read: The password is always “swordfish”

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Sorry, but your password must contain an uppercase letter, a number, a haiku, a gang sign, a hieroglyph, and the blood of a virgin.


Perhaps some of you older folks recognize the title of this month’s column from a famous line by Groucho Marx, who once weighed in on passwords. We all live with them every day, and it is not a symbiotic relationship.

I understand HIPAA (although I don’t always remember what it stands for). I understand security. And I understand risks.

I also know how many systems I rely on during an average day of reading. There’s PACS. There’s RIS. There’s HIS. There’s EMR—and on it goes with the acronym soup. All these systems have something useful to me, and I should be able to get there relatively quickly and conveniently.



I need a password. And, as all of you know, it has to be a DIFFERENT PASSWORD.

I can still remember opening a patient’s chart on the floor, and having that chart come down to the department with the patient. The hospital chart. It had some kind of mystical presence—the first time I got to write in one I remember thinking I am finally a doctor. It was all there. It might have been tough to find, but it was all in there.

Now, everything is on a spinning disk somewhere; all it takes is the touch of a mouse. It is much better organized. It is much more inclusive. It has loads of other information.

And it’s all behind a 2,000-foot wall if you can’t remember that *&$#?!! password.

Password requirements make a fair amount of sense. Changing them does, too. However, the confluence of these two items leaves me, at this point in my life, running out of effective short words-with-numbers accompaniments. I hate the idea of using a 1 for an i, so those kinds of substitutions kill me. It has to be something I might type naturally. My kids’ names, my dog, the street I live on … you know the drill. And do NOT get me started on those password generators (“never be broken” equals “never be remembered”).

I presume I will have to live with this. Swordfish1, swordfish2, swordfish3.


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Wet Read: The password is always “swordfish”.  Appl Radiol. 

By C. Douglas Phillips, MD, FACR| July 04, 2014

About the Author

C. Douglas Phillips, MD, FACR

C. Douglas Phillips, MD, FACR

Dr. Phillips is a Professor of Radiology, Director of Head and Neck Imaging, at Weill Cornell Medical College, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. He is a member of the Applied Radiology Editorial Advisory Board.

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