Easy passwords delight hackers

THE online world is a gold mine for fraudsters, thanks to the many boneheads who have access to the internet. People who are unable to remember passwords think they are being smart by choosing ‘123456’ or ‘password.’

Those are the top two among the 10 most popular passwords found in a leaked Yahoo database. The others, in order, are, ‘welcome’, ‘ninja’, ‘abc123’, ‘123456789’, ‘12345678’, ‘sunshine’, ‘princess’ and ‘qwerty’.

Simple combinations of name with an age or birthday are also popular. These unsafe passwords were discovered by experts at Britain’s Lancaster University, Peking University and Fujian Normal University, who conducted a research on why hackers continue to thrive.

They created algorithms to guess passwords based on attackers having access to some personal information. The researchers guessed passwords in short order for more than 73 percent run-of-the-mill internet users.

A third of the passwords of people rated as smart about online security were cracked in 100 guesses. Lancaster University’s Jeff Yan said the main reason why people use such obvious passwords was “they’re either unaware of or don’t understand the risks of online security.”

“Just like everybody knows what one should do when red lights are on in the road, eventually everybody will know ‘123456’ or the like is not a good password choice,” he said.

Users nowadays have to maintain several times as many password accounts as they did 10 years ago. As a result, many reuse passwords across accounts.

(This article is published on Junior Standard on 1 November 2016)

Handling user accounts and passwords – HK Government

Password and university rule – Lancaster University