Passwords: Why are we still getting it wrong?

123456. qwerty. password. We’ve all done it. Despite constantly being told to mix up our passwords and include everything from capital letters to hieroglyphics (well, not quite) we’re still using predictable patterns that hold the key to our entire online lives. 

A research study carried out by Keeper Security has revealed the most common passwords used in 2016. 

The data, collected from 10 million passwords included in data breaches that happened in 2016, highlighted some interesting facts:

  • Nearly 17% of users are using the password ‘123456’ to safeguard their accounts. 
  • The top 25 passwords of 2016 make up for over 50% of the 10m passwords that were analysed.
  • 4 of the top 10 passwords are six characters or shorter.

These statistics are worrying and show that the list of most-frequently used passwords is not changing. A six character password can be unscrambled in seconds. The majority of users are not taking the time or effort to protect themselves and secure their passwords so it is up to website operators to ensure that a complex code is required. 

Another study to be released recently shows that it’s not just common passwords that are causing problems in security, it’s password sharing too. The LastPass Sharing Survey said that a huge 95% of respondents share up to 6 passwords with others. But what’s being shared and with who?

In some cases, password sharing is unavoidable. In the workplace they often need to be shared for emergencies, shared team accounts or to delegate work. At home, spouses frequently share passwords for financial and utility accounts. The biggest problem is that 59% of people are re-using passwords. Using the same password for more than one login can be extremely dangerous, particularly if your password is shared. The other person could immediately have access to multiple accounts that you did not intend them too. It’s important that passwords are only shared with trusted persons and that passwords are changed after the person it was shared with has used it.

So if millions of users are still getting passwords wrong, how can you ensure that next time you choose a password you get it right?

  • Don’t use a password with any personal information, e.g. date of birth, names etc. 
  • Don’t use dictionary words. Once a piece of hacking software has gone through all the most common passwords it will then start making its way through the dictionary until it eventually finds yours. 
  • Aim for a 10 character password. 6 characters or less takes seconds to crack, ensure you have at least 8 but there’s no harm in trying to make it longer. 
  • While it is advised to use a combination of lower and upper case letters and numbers to replace alphabetical value, e.g. p$ssw0rd, these can be easily hacked. Try to think of a sentence instead, turn it into an acronym and do the same, e.g. ‘My first house was number 43’ becomes MfHwn43. 

Choosing a secure and hack-proof password is the first step towards ensuring your online life is safe. Don’t make it easy for hackers to gain access to your accounts and be careful who you share your passwords with.