In a world where people share too much information online, it turns out the greatest risk to personal security is your own laziness and oversharing.
For reasons that are difficult for me to understand, people tend to use “cutesy” passwords that they THINK are difficult to crack (or maybe they’re just too lazy to come up with ones that REALLY ARE difficult to crack). They also tend to create “weak” or “obvious” security questions whose answers can be guessed by anyone who follows them on social media. Believe it or not, the greatest risk to security is YOU.
Take a look at this list of the top 100 worst passwords and see how many of them you are guilty of using yourself.
The password at the top of the list, “123456”, has been the most-used password for a staggering FIVE YEARS IN A ROW. It is estimated that 3% of people in North America use this password for at least one of their accounts!
Hackers typically try using lists of “known passwords” when trying to access accounts. When equipped with armies of compromised computers to attack en masse, it really doesn’t take them long to break into poorly guarded accounts.
Are you at risk?
This is not the first time I’ve warned about weak passwords and compromised email accounts. If you suspect your email account has been hacked, you can verify this by checking the excellent website Have I Been Pwned. Troy Hunt, a trusted security researcher, makes this service available to the public. In addition, Troy has accumulated a massive database of over 500 MILLION compromised passwords. You can SAFELY enter your password on his website to see if hackers have previously encountered that password. Keep in mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean YOUR account has been compromised. But, it DOES mean that someone else has used that same password before and had THEIR account compromised. As a result, hackers are more likely to try that password when attempting to break into your system.
The best way to protect passwords these days is to use a Password Manager program. All you need is ONE STRONG PASSWORD to protect that program, and then the program will take care of generating and remembering unique, strong passwords for each of your online accounts. Even if someone were to guess one of your passwords, all other accounts would still be protected.
Jack Eisenberg is the owner of Safe and Secure Computing and regularly contributes computer security related articles.