Passe-partout

In the internet age, one of the consequences of everything being online is that the information, data, funds, memberships and documents need to be protected. The standard way of doing this is to make access subject to a password. All of us these days have dozens, if not hundreds, of websites to which we have password-protected access. Managing these passwords, and more importantly managing them safely, is not an easy task.

An extraordinary number of people do this by having absolutely the same password for everything. So, be careless with this once, and someone may suddenly have access to everything you control online, may be able to use it, change it, siphon funds from it or do all sorts of other things, including shutting you out from it by changing this password.

And as people struggle with this and think of a good password to mitigate the risks, what would you think they come up with? What passwords do they generally use? Mostly entirely obvious ones, such as the name of a family member or pet. But what would you think is the single most popular password? It’s hard to believe this, but actually it is ‘123456’! And the second most popular? Well, ahem, it’s ‘12345’. Third is ‘123456789’. On the other hand the fourth most popular password is the work of people who clearly have a greater sense of creative originality: it is ‘password’.

How do we know all this? A software company called Imperva recently looked at 32 million passwords which had ben stolen by a hacker, and this was the result. The story was published earlier this year in the New York Times.

As the use of passwords proliferates, maybe we need to find a better way of managing them.

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One Comment on “Passe-partout”

  1. Scott Says:

    An interesting angle on this appeared recently in the New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/business/05digi.html

    A Strong Password Isn’t the Strongest Security

    (One of the main points is that the problem isn’t so much weak passwords as sites that allow unlimited authentication attempts.)


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