Cyber security measures include keeping your personal and financial data safe.
As cybercrime is on the rise, the security of our online accounts is a hot topic. However, a recent report by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NSCS) shows that millions of us are using passwords on our sensitive accounts that are almost laughably easy to crack.
The NSCS conducted an analysis of passwords found in public databases of previously breached accounts, and provided a list of the most frequently used passwords. In last year’s report, the most popular password used on breached accounts was revealed to be ‘123456’, and this year the same sequence topped the league of cracked passwords for a second time – it was used 23 million times!
Other passwords, which were not quite as popular but still featured in the top five, were ‘123456789’ (slightly harder to crack because of its greater length, but still not much of a challenge), ‘password’, ‘qwerty’ and ‘1111111’. Some of the people whose accounts were breached used names as their passwords, including ‘Ashley’ (the most frequent) ‘Michael’ and ‘Daniel’.
Names are easy to guess, particularly if they are the names of family members. Other types of password identified in the report include Premier League football teams (Liverpool comes top for this one), musicians (blink182 being the most popular) and fictional characters (Superman being far and away the most common).
Troy Hunt, co-author of the NSCS report, said:
Recognising the passwords that are most likely to result in a successful account takeover is an important first step in helping people to create a more secure online presence
Whilst online bank accounts and any website that stores your credit card details may be of primary concern, all online accounts should be protected in order to guard against identity theft. Cyber security is important for all accounts and can be improved by a few basic steps.
A 2015 report entitled ‘Password Guidance’, published by the information security arm of GCHQ (CESG) and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, provided a number of hints on how businesses could come up with more secure passwords. The key hint, and the one most relevant to individuals, was to “change all default passwords.”
If you struggle to remember multiple passwords consider using a password manager app on your smartphone or laptop. It can automatically populate passwords on websites and apps, and you only have to remember one ‘master password’ yourself.
The National Cyber Security Centre provides a range of advice and tips on cyber security and staying safe online.