What is a Username?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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Usernames are an important component of identification utilized with many computer applications. Along with a password or pass-phrase, the username helps to identify an end user who is authorized to access the program and utilize the resources provided. Without a valid username, it is impossible to gain access to the program.

The utilization of a username password combination is common in both business and personal applications. In a work environment, accounting programs, customer listings, and inventory lists are protected by a username and password. Should someone attempt to access a protected listing or database without entering a valid combination of username and passwords, many systems will lock out the station where the attempt took place, requiring the Information Systems department to deploy personnel in response to the possible breach attempt.

It is not unusual for many work stations to require a username login in order to gain access to any data stored on the system’s hard drive. Most of the more popular operating systems for desktop and laptop computers offer users the opportunity to create unique names and passwords as part of a security process. When the user leaves the work station, he or she effectively locks the station from active use while away. Upon returning, the employee enters the password-username combination required and is able to resume working.


Even free services used by many individuals will utilize a username-password combination in order to provide some degree of security for their clients. Online email services allow users to establish their own free password and username combinations, thus limiting access to the online electronic mailboxes. Message boards, chat rooms, and other social networking sites also utilize names and passwords as a means of allowing new members to establish an account and begin to enjoy the features of the site.

While many programs and online sites require nothing more than a simple combination of username and password, the increasing incident of security breaches and identity theft have led to many vendors requiring additional information in order to assure the privacy of end users. One approach is the inclusion of a visual image that is confirmed along with the password and unique name before full access is granted. Another common approach is to require the end user to read and enter a string of words or characters in order to minimize the use of sophisticated hacker programs that harvest login data and then attempt to use it for illegal purposes.

Many businesses recommend at least changing the password on a recurring basis, in order to heighten security. However, there are a growing number of online entities that require the end user to also change the username from time to time. While somewhat inconvenient, this newer approach may also help to minimize the potential for illegal use of an account and possible damage to the reputation or the finances of the end user.


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