Does Southwest’s new ‘password’ commercial need to get away?

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If you watched any football yesterday, chances are you saw the latest in Southwest Airlines’ “Wanna get away?” commercial series, this one featuring a military general and his comical willingness to surrender his network access password.

While funny on its face, the commercial is not exactly a lesson in proper password management. Watch or read the transcript that follows:


“General, there’s been a breach, we need your password so that we can lock down the system.”

“My password?”

“Yes, your password.”

“The password that I use?”

“Yes, sir, your password.”

At this point we can tell that our general is both a doofus and is hesitating to reveal his password, but it seems that he is more likely hesitating because of what we are going to learn next than because blurting your password to anyone who asks -- in a roomful of people -- violates Rule 1 of password security if not the Geneva Conventions.

Then a second fictional IT professional, a woman, escalates the situation:

“There’s been another breach!”

A second breach that apparently can only be stemmed through use of the general’s password. The pressure to act now unbearable, even for a decorated military commander, the general verbally spells out his password:


The password is then helpfully typed and displayed on a huge screen – unmasked – so that anyone who didn’t hear the general could now appreciate that he both hates his job and knows not a thing about password security.

Eyebrows are raised – at his confession about his job, not password malpractice -- and then the general is asked if he wants to get away.

To be fair, the commercial is funny and is drawing rave reviews from most on Twitter.

Not everyone, however.

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Count me with the killjoys on this one. It’s difficult enough to get civilians to act responsibly with their passwords without using a military setting to make comedic fodder of the basic idea.

We’ll see how much pushback Southwest receives from the IT security community and whether it’s enough to get the loose-lipped general busted down to TV history.

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