Is Your Password on the Naughty List?

Category: Security

The 8th annual list of The Worst Passwords is out, and I hope none of your passwords is on it. To make this list, security software firm SplashData examines millions of passwords that were leaked in data breaches throughout the year, ranking passwords on their frequency of occurrence and security weakness. In other words, the passwords on this list are both commonly used and easily hacked. Find out if your password is on the list, and learn how to beef up your password security...

The Most Popular (and WORST) Passwords

SplashData's list of the 100 Worst Passwords for 2018 is actually a fun read, punctuated with some humorous graphics that underscore the reason why some passwords are particularly fool-hardy. The data comes from files of leaked and stolen passwords and user IDs, so SplashData is not telling bad guys anything they don’t already know. It’s very likely that all 100 of the Worst Passwords are among the first ones tried in simple attacks, where a hacker throws common passwords at a site until one of them works. These are easy pickings; if you use any of these passwords, you are far more likely to get hacked.

If you don't want to scroll through the list of all 100 terrible passwords, here are the 25 most common weak passwords for each year since 2011. For the fifth year in a row, the top two Worst Passwords are “password” and “123456.” They epitomize the first two “don’ts” of password selection: don’t use an obvious word or pattern of keystrokes. Other examples include names (“charlie,” “donald”) and keyboard patterns (“qwerty” and “!@#$%^&*”). Names of sports teams (“Lakers,” “Redskins”) are also lame.

Even simple combinations of letters and symbols like “password1” or “qwerty123” don’t make strong passwords, although many sites will tell you they are strong. The pattern or root word is too obvious. It's also a bad idea to reuse passwords across multiple online accounts. If one is breached, all are exposed. You might chuckle at some of these ill-considered passwords, and wonder why you should care if "stupid people" have easily hacked online accounts.

Splashdata worst passwords of 2018

Here's why -- the people who use these lame passwords are not harmless idiots. They are serious threats to the security of the entire Internet. Any compromised, connected computer or online account can and will be used to spread spam, malware, and other mischief to thousands of others. It’s tempting to think of the idiots’ own suffering (ID theft, financial fraud, data loss, etc.) as karma. But instead, let's take pity and share some information about how to avoid those perils.

Use a Password Manager to Generate, Save and Recall Your Login Credentials

There is absolutely no excuse for weak passwords anymore. Commercial password manager software such as Roboform, Lastpass, and Dashlane take the work out of creating and using long, strong passwords. Dashlane even has a feature that will change the passwords on multiple sites with just a few keystrokes; it’s good practice to change passwords on a regular basis.

I am liking Google Chrome’s recent upgrades to its (free) built-in password manager. When registering at a new site, Chrome can suggest a long, strong password; one click, and it is applied to your new account and saved to your passwords vault at https://passwords.google.com. To access your saved passwords you will need to perform a task such as unlocking your phone or responding to an email. It’s a good, simple system that adds a lot of security to password management. You can learn more here.

Roboform, Dashlane, Lastpass and Chrome all store your passwords in the cloud, with strong encryption, to enable access to your saved credentials from any computer or mobile device. If you recoil at the thought of storing all your passwords in cloud storage, consider KeePass. Unlike purely cloud-based password managers, KeePass will store your encrypted password vault where you tell it to. That could be on a local hard drive, a USB flash drive, or even in the cloud if you need to sync across desktop and mobile. Keepass is free, but not as user friendly and full-featured as the paid options I listed above.

Every now and then, you should review your saved passwords to see if there are any online accounts you no longer use. Go to the site(s) and delete or close such inactive accounts. The fewer opportunities to hack you, the better.

How do you handle passwords? Don’t give away any family secrets, but I would like to know in general how you create and manage your passwords; feel free to share ideas in the comments below.

 
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