Passwords: How do yours stack up?

February 11, 2010 / Updated: February 11, 2010 / Lena Shore
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How many passwords do you have? With so much business on the internet now from banking to social events, most of us have a lot of passwords. But, how good are your passwords? Are they secure? Or easy to guess? Or worse, do you have a single password for all of your accounts?

Top 10 Passwords

How clever is your password? Here is a list of the the top 10 passwords from a survey of 32 million people.

  1. 123456
  2. 12345
  3. 123456789
  4. Password
  5. iloveyou
  6. princess
  7. rockyou
  8. 1234567
  9. 12345678
  10. abc123

If you are like most people, you pick a password your can remember easily that you think no one else will guess. But, with technology advancing there could be some pitfalls in your thinking. You may need to protect your password from someone with access to your house, but more likely, you need to protect yourself from people that want to monitor your actions from a remote location.

If your password is easy for you to remember, it might be easy for someone to figure out. Individuals who are intent on gaining access to your online accounts or computer are not trying to login as you and trying one password at a time until they get it right. They are running programs that have thousands of passwords and combinations to try. Here are some of the things that hackers check for:

  1. Any word in the dictionary. Yep. If it’s a word in the dictionary, they will check for it.
  2. Names
  3. Combinations of names or words and numbers — “Bob2” might sound like a good password, but automated programs can figure this one out easily.
  4. Popular passwords (like listed above)
  5. Common phrases like “I love you” or “dinner time”
  6. Don’t replace numbers with letters. If your name is Elaine and you choose “3la1n3” as your password, I have some bad news. Hackers have already thought of this and are happy to run those variables through their automatic programs while scanning.

Password “Don’ts”

  • Don’t pick a name as your password.
  • Don’t pick a series of numbers.
  • Don’t pick a short password.
  • Don’t pick a common phrase.
  • Don’t pick a single password for all of your accounts. If a hacker  finds out a password and has access to your computer, they will not only have everything on your computer, but also all the sites you frequent.
  • Don’t use personal information that someone could figure out.
  • Don’t use a password that is the same as your login.
  • Don’t use passwords that are easy to spot while typing them on the keyboard. (12345)
  • Don’t use your name.
  • Don’t use your spouse’s name.
  • Don’t use your parent’s name.
  • Don’t use your pet’s name.
  • Don’t use your child’s name.
  • Don’t use names of close friends or coworkers.
  • Don’t use names of your favorite fantasy or fictional characters.
  • Don’t use your boss’s name.
  • Just don’t use anybody’s name.
  • Don’t use the name of the operating system you’re using.
  • Don’t use the hostname of your computer.
  • Don’t use your phone number.
  • Don’t use your license plate number.
  • Don’t use any part of your social security number.
  • Don’t use a birth date.
  • Don’t use other information that is easily obtained about you.
  • Don’t use any username on the computer in any form. (as is, capitalized, etc.)
  • Don’t use a word in the English dictionary.
  • Don’t use a word in a foreign dictionary.
  • Don’t use a place.
  • Don’t use a proper noun.
  • Don’t use passwords of all the same letter.
  • Don’t use simple patterns on the keyboard, like qwerty.
  • Don’t use any of the above spelled backwards.
  • Don’t use any of the above followed or prepended by a single digit.

Password “Dos”

  • Expand your character list. There are 26 letters in the alphabet and 10 digits. You can make some great combinations with it, but why not throw in some uppercase and lowercase letters as well as some symbols?
  • Make it random. If you can pronounce your password, a hacker can too. Mix and match symbols, characters, case, and digits whenever possible.
  • Use a password generator to make it easy to think of passwords.
  • The longer the password the better.
  • Use a different password for each of your logins.

What I use

I use a program called 1Password by Agile S0lutions on my computer. I love it. It makes it easy to store all of your passwords on your Macintosh or iPhone while keeping it secure. It also has a password generator. I used to be a person that kept a single password for all of my accounts, but now I am reformed. I have different passwords for everything. If an account that will let me have a 20 character password full of crazy symbols I will do it. Now it’s one easy step, and I don’t even have to remember it. (Though all my passes are backed up in the event I should need them.)