Nobody wants to get hacked. But when it comes to choosing a password, there are key steps you can take to reduce your risk of data intrusions from unwanted virtual visitors. A study found that more than 29,000 of the compromised accounts were using the password "123456" -- the most popular password. The second and third most common passwords were also strings of consecutive numbers. And the fourth most common password? "Password." Other popular passwords from the RockYou case include "iloveyou," "abc123," and a handful of common first names like "Ashley" and "Michael."
How to avoid bad passwords:
- Don't use any part of your name or email address: These two pieces of information are easily obtained about you.
- Avoid any other personal information: Don't use your birthday, family member or pet names, street addresses, or anything else that could be public knowledge for prying eyes.
- Don't use consecutive numbers: These are extremely easy for a cracking program to decode, and as you can see from the ADC study, they're also wildly popular.
- Avoid words in the dictionary: This includes random sequences of words and slang terms too.
Best Passwords: Uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols Nowadays, many websites encourage good password practices by forcing you to input a mix of numbers, letters, symbols, and mixed capitalization. This approach is definitely the right idea: mixing it up can pay off, statistically speaking. Why? Most password hacks you'll be warding off use a technique called a "brute force attack." This flavor of hack uses automated computer software to guess every possible combination to crack your personal code. According to the ADC study, automated hacking software combined with poorly chosen passwords means a hacker can break into 1000 accounts in just 17 minutes. If you introduce more variables into your password -- namely numbers, symbols, and a mix of lower and upper case letters -- intrusive software will take longer to crack your code. Make passwords more secure:
- Add letters: Since there are 26 letters in the alphabet, one additional letter can make your password 26 times harder to crack.
- Use a mix of lower and uppercase letters: Mixing up your cases adds complexity and safety to your chosen password.
- Add numbers: Using letters, words, and phrases for your passwords seems both natural and easy to remember, but it's much safer to diversify.
- Add symbols: Symbols are the real secret ingredient to security. Since there are over 1500 symbols a hacking program needs to run through to correctly lock down one character of your password, adding one extra asterisk or exclamation point can make it 1500 times more difficult for intruders to pry open your personal accounts.