123456 Still A Popular Password

A study by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) into breached passwords has revealed that 123456 featured 23 million times, making it the most widely-used password on breached accounts.

Top Five Easy-To-Guess Passwords

The study, which analysed public databases of breached accounts to discover which words, phrases and strings were most popularly used, also found that the second-most popular string was 123456789, and that the words "qwerty" and "password", and the string 1111111 all featured in the top five most popular breached passwords.

Names & Football Teams

The study revealed that people routinely use Christian names and the names of their favourite football teams as passwords, thereby making them relatively easy to crack.  For example, the most popular breached-password names were Ashley, Michael, Daniel, Jessica and Charlie. The most popular football team passwords noted by the study were ‘Liverpool are champions’, followed by Chelsea.

Not Confident

The NCSC study also found that 42% of those surveyed expected to lose money to online fraud, and that only 15% said that they were confident that they knew enough to be able to protect themselves online.

Big Risk - Password Sharing

The study also found that fewer than half of those surveyed used a separate, strong password for their main email account.  The risk of using the same password for multiple accounts and platforms is that if one of those accounts is compromised, cyber-criminals will sell your login details on and/or use ‘credential stuffing’ tools to try stolen passwords on multiple websites.

Stolen credentials are also routinely used in phishing attacks e.g. to send malicious emails to a victim’s list of contacts, and in targeted digital identity attacks, where the breached credentials are used to steal a victim’s entire digital identity, steal their money, or even to compromise their social media network data.

Passwords on Hacking Forums

As revealed back in January by security researcher Troy Hunt of ‘Have I Been Pwned’ service, 772,904,991 unique email addresses, and 21,222,975 unique passwords are already being shared on hacking forums as part of a collection of credentials stolen from multiple sites, dubbed Collection #1.

This highlights the importance of not sharing passwords between websites, and of changing passwords regularly.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story highlights the importance of always using strong passwords that you change on a regular basis. Also, it highlights the importance of not using the same usernames and passwords on multiple websites as this can provide an easy route to your data for criminals using credential stuffing.

Managing multiple passwords in a way that is secure, effective, and doesn’t have to rely on memory is difficult, particularly for businesses where there are multiple sites to manage. One easy-to-use tool that can help is a password manager.  Typically, these can be installed as browser plug-ins that are used to handle password capture and replay, and when logging into a secure site, they offer to save your credentials. On returning to that site, they can automatically fill in those credentials. Password managers can also generate new passwords when you need them and automatically paste them into the right places, as well as being able to sync your passwords across all your devices. Examples of popular password managers include Dashline, LastPass, Sticky Password, and Password Boss, and those which are password vaults in other programs and CRMs include Zoho Vault and Keeper Password Manager & Digital Vault.

The new version of the Chrome browser (69) also has an improved password manager, which could help those who still appear to rely upon using very weak passwords e.g. 123456, password, 12345678 and qwerty.  The Chrome 69 password manager suggests passwords incorporating at least one lowercase character, one uppercase character and at least one number, and where websites require symbols in passwords it can add these. Users can also manually edit the Chrome-generated password, and when Google is generating the password, every time users click away from its suggestion, a new one is created. Chrome 69 can store the password on a laptop or phone so that users don’t have to write it down or try and remember it (if they are using the same device).

If you’re worried that people in your business may currently be using passwords that have already been stolen, you can find a list of the (from Troy Hunt of ‘Have I Been Pwned’) here:  https://www.troyhunt.com/pwned-passwords-now-as-ntlm-hashes/  and Mr Hunt provides some answers to popular questions about the stolen passwords in the ‘FAQs’ section of his blog post here: https://www.troyhunt.com/the-773-million-record-collection-1-data-reach/.