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These are the most commonly hacked passwords – is one of them yours?

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How can you build a robust password policy?
Top tips on how to tame password sprawl in the enterprise.

Hundreds of millions of internet users continue to put themselves at risk of having their accounts hacked by using incredibly simple and commonly used passwords which can easily be guessed by cyber criminals – or worse, just plucked from databases of stolen information.

An analysis of the 100,000 most common passwords made public by data breaches and hacking campaigns suggests that vast swathes of people still don’t understand the importance of having a strong password – or how to create one – using names, sports teams, bands and even just keys close together on the keyboard in an effort to secure accounts.

The passwords have been gathered using information from global data data breaches which are already in the public domain, having been leaked, shared or sold by hackers on the dark web.

The full list has been created and shared by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre – the cyber arm of the GCHQ intelligence service – with the aim of encouraging users to create strong passwords to help protect sensitive data.

By far the most commonly used password revealed in data breaches is ‘123456’, with 23.2 million accounts using this password – made up of the first six numerical keys across the top of a keyboard; 7.7 million users went the whole hog and used almost all the numerical keys, opting to use ‘123456789’ as their password.

The remainder of the top five most commonly used passwords are each used by over 3 million users who’ve fallen data breaches – ‘qwerty’ appears 3.8m times, ‘password’ appears 3.6m times and ‘111111’ appears 3.1 million times.

Many of the top 50 most used passwords – almost all of which are used by over half a million people – are based around basic ideas, like being made up a simple series of numbers, or the same number repeated six or seven times.

Passwords ‘iloveyou’, ‘monkey’ and ‘dragon’ are among the top 20 most used, while ‘myspace1’ is ranked 26th on the list with 735,980 users selecting it as their password – it’s likely that they selected this as their password for MySpace, even if many have long forgotten about their account on the early social network.

SEE: A winning strategy for cybersecurity (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)  

Names are a common password theme, with hundreds of thousands of users just using a single name as a password. ‘ashley’ and ‘michael’ are used by over 400,000 users each, with ‘daniel’, ‘jessica’ and ‘charlie’ each used over 300,000 times.

It’s likely that these are the users’ own names – meaning that if a hacker gets hold of an email address and no password, cracking it by using the victim’s first name might blow the thing wide open.

Bands are also a common theme when it comes to users selecting simple passwords, with the password list detailing how 285,706 users opted for ‘blink182′ as their password – making the pop-punk band the most commonly selected music related password. ’50cent’, ‘enimem’, ‘metallica’ and ‘slipknot’ are all each used over 140,000 times.

Sports teams are another common theme amongst the most reguarly breached passwords. Liverpool wins the title of most used Premier League football team in passwords, with 280,723 users choosing ‘liverpool’ to lock their account.

The remainder of the top five Premier League football teams in the top five most commonly breached passwords are ‘chelsea’ ‘arsenal’ ‘manutd’ and ‘everton’.

People who use their favourite sports team as their password could easily find themselves the victim of a hack – many sports fans will talk about their favourite team on social media and it could therefore be relatively simple for a cyber criminal to seek this information out on Twitter or Facebook and use the information in an effort to crack the account.

SEE: The secret to being a great spy agency in the 21st century: Incubating startups [TechRepublic]

A major problem with these simple passwords is that it’s incredibly likely that the users are using them across multiple accounts – meaning that if their email address and password are exposed in a breach they could easily be used to access other services they uses including social media and online shopping accounts.

“Password re-use is a major risk that can be avoided – nobody should protect sensitive data with something that can be guessed, like their first name, local football team or favourite band,” said Dr Ian Levy, NCSC’s Technical Director

“Using hard-to-guess passwords is a strong first step and we recommend combining three random but memorable words. Be creative and use words memorable to you, so people can’t guess your password.”

The NCSC – which has released the password list ahead of it’s CYBERUK 2019 conference in Glasgow – recommends using three random words as a password.

The password list was created using breached usernames and passwords collected on Have I Been Pwned, a website by security expert Troy Hunt which allows users to check if their email address appears in major data breaches.

“Making good password choices is the single biggest control consumers have over their own personal security posture. We typically haven’t done a very good job of that either as individuals or as the organisations asking us to register with them,” said Hunt.

“Recognising the passwords that are most likely to result in a successful account takeover is an important first step in helping people create a more secure online presence,” he added.

The NCSC has published advice on what makes a good password and how users can secure their accounts on the official NCSC website.

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Phish Fight: Securing Enterprise Communications

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Yes, much of the world may have moved on from email to social media and culturally dubious TikTok dances, yet traditional electronic mail remains a foundation of business communication. And sadly, it remains a prime vector for malware, data leakage, and phishing attacks that can undermine enterprise protections. It doesn’t have to be that way.

In a just released report titled “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” GigaOm Analyst Simon Gibson surveyed more than a dozen enterprise-focused email security solutions. He found a range of approaches to securing communications that often can be fitted together to provide critical, defense-in-depth protection against even determined attackers.

Figure 1. GigaOm Radar for Email Phishing Prevention and Detection

“When evaluating these vendors and their solutions, it is important to consider your own business and workflow,” Gibson writes in the report, stressing the need to deploy solutions that best address your organization’s business workflow and email traffic. “For some it may be preferable to settle on one comprehensive solution, while for others building a best-of-breed architecture from multiple vendors may be preferable.”

In a field of competent solutions, Gibson found that Forcepoint, purchased recently by Raytheon, stood apart thanks to the layered protections provided by its Advanced Classification Engine. Area 1 and Zimperium, meanwhile, are both leaders that exhibit significant momentum, with Area 1 boosted by its recent solution partnership with Virtru, and Zimperium excelling in its deep commitment to mobile message security.

A mobile focus is timely, Gibson says in a video interview for GigaOm. He says companies are “tuning the spigot on” and enabling unprecedented access and reliance on mobile devices, which is creating an urgent need to get ahead of threats.

Gibson’s conclusion in the report? He singles out three things: Defense in depth, awareness of existing patterns and infrastructure, and a healthy respect for the “human factor” that can make security so hard to lock down.

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When Is a DevSecOps Vendor Not a DevSecOps Vendor?

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DevOps’ general aim is to enable a more efficient process for producing software and technology solutions and bringing stakeholders together to speed up delivery. But we know from experience that this inherently creative, outcome-driven approach often forgets about one thing until too late in the process—security. Too often, security is brought into the timeline just before deployment, risking last minute headaches and major delays. The security team is pushed into being the Greek chorus of the process, “ruining everyone’s fun” by demanding changes and slowing things down.

But as we know, in the complex, multi-cloud and containerized environment we find ourselves in, security is becoming more important and challenging than ever. And the costs of security failure are not only measured in slower deployment, but in compliance breaches and reputational damage.

The term “DevSecOps” has been coined to characterize how security needs to be at the heart of the DevOps process. This is in part principle and part tools. As a principle, DevSecOps fits with the concept of “shifting left,” that is, ensuring that security is treated as early as possible in the development process. So far, so simple.

From a tooling perspective, however, things get more complicated, not least because the market has seen a number of platforms marketing themselves as DevSecOps. As we have been writing our Key Criteria report on the subject, we have learned that not all DevSecOps vendors are necessarily DevSecOps vendors. Specifically, we have learned to distinguish capabilities that directly enable the goals of DevSecOps from a process perspective, from those designed to support DevSecOps practices. We could define them as: “Those that do, and those that help.”

This is how to tell the two types of vendor apart and how to use them.

Vendors Enabling DevSecOps: “Tools That Do”

A number of tools work to facilitate the DevSecOps process -– let’s bite the bullet and call them DevSecOps tools. They help teams set out each stage of software development, bringing siloed teams together behind a unified vision that allows fast, high-quality development, with security considerations at its core. DevSecOps tools work across the development process, for example:

  • Create: Help to set and implement policy
  • Develop: Apply guidance to the process and aid its implementation
  • Test: Facilitate and guide security testing procedures
  • Deploy: Provide reports to assure confidence to deploy the application

The key element that sets these tool sets apart is the ability to automate and reduce friction within the development process. They will prompt action, stop a team from moving from one stage to another if the process has not adequately addressed security concerns, and guide the roadmap for the development from start to finish.

Supporting DevSecOps: “Tools That Help”

In this category we place those tools which aid the execution, and monitoring, of good DevSecOps principles. Security scanning and application/infrastructure hardening tools are a key element of these processes: Software composition analysis (SCA) forms a part of the development stage, static/dynamic application security testing (SAST/DAST) is integral to the test stage and runtime app protection (RASP) is a key to the Deploy stage.

Tools like this are a vital part of the security layer of security tooling, especially just before deployment – and they often come with APIs so they can be plugged into the CI/CD process. However, while these capabilities are very important to DevSecOps, they can be seen in more of a supporting role, rather than being DevSecOps tools per se.

DevSecOps-washing is not a good idea for the enterprise

While one might argue that security should never have been shifted right, DevSecOps exists to ensure that security best practices take place across the development lifecycle. A corollary exists to the idea of “tools that help,” namely that organizations implementing these tools are not “doing DevSecOps,” any more than vendors providing these tools are DevSecOps vendors.

The only way to “do” DevSecOps is to fully embrace security at a process management and governance level: This means assessing risk, defining policy, setting review gates, and disallowing progress for insecure deliverables. Organizations that embrace DevSecOps can get help from what we are calling DevSecOps tools, as well as from scanning and hardening tools that help support its goals.

At the end of the day, all security and governance boils down to risk: If you buy a scanning tool so you can check a box that says “DevSecOps,” you are potentially adding to your risk posture, rather than mitigating it. So, get your DevSecOps strategy fixed first, then consider how you can add automation, visibility, and control using “tools that do,” as well as benefit from “tools that help.”

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High Performance Application Security Testing

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research. It is hosted by an expert in Application and API testing, and GigaOm analyst, Jake Dolezal. His presentation will focus on the results of high performance testing we completed against two security mechanisms: ModSecurity on NGINX and NGINX App Protect. Additionally, we tested the AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) as a fully managed security offering.

While performance is important, it is only one criterion for a Web Application Firewall selection. The results of the report are revealing about these platforms. The methodology will be shown with clarity and transparency on how you might replicate these tests to mimic your own workloads and requirements.

Register now to join GigaOm and sponsor NGINX for this free expert webinar.

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