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.
READ MORE ON CYBER SECURITY
Work from Home Security
Spin Master is a leading global children’s entertainment company that invents toys and games, produces dozens of television and studio series that are distributed in 160 countries, and creates a variety of digital games played by more than 30 million children. What was once a small private company founded by childhood friends is now a public global supply chain with over 1,500 employees and 28 offices around the world.
Like most organizations in 2020, Spin Master had to adapt quickly to the new normal of remote work, shifting most of its production from cubicles in regional and head offices to hundreds of employees working from home and other remote locations.
This dramatic shift created potential security risks, as most employees were no longer behind the firewall on the corporate network. Without the implementation of hardened endpoint security, the door would be open for bad actors to infiltrate the organization, acquire intellectual property, and ransom customer information. Additionally, the potential downtime caused by a security breach could harm the global supply chain. With that in mind, Spin Master created a self-imposed 30-day deadline to extend its network protection capabilities to the edge.
- Think Long Term: The initial goal of establishing a stop-gap work-from-home (WFH) and work-from-anywhere (WFA) strategy has since morphed into a permanent strategy, requiring long-term solutions.
- Gather Skills: The real urgency posed by the global pandemic made forging partnerships with providers that could fill all the required skill sets a top priority.
- Build Momentum: The compressed timeline left no room for delay or error. The Board of Directors threw its support behind the implementation team and gave it broad budget authority to ensure rapid action, while providing active guidance to align strategy with action.
- Deliver Value: The team established two key requirements that the selected partner must deliver: implementation support and establishing an ongoing managed security operations center (SOC).
Key Criteria for Evaluating Privileged Access Management
Privileged Access Management (PAM) enables administrative access to critical IT systems while minimizing the chances of security compromises through monitoring, policy enforcement, and credential management.
A key operating principle of all PAM systems is the separation of user credentials for individual staff members from the system administration credentials they are permitted to use. PAM solutions store and manage all of the privileged credentials, providing system access without requiring users to remember, or even know, the privileged password. Of course, all staff have their own unique user ID and password that they use to complete everyday tasks such as accessing email and writing documents. Users who are permitted to handle system administration tasks that require privileged credentials log into the PAM solution, which provides and controls such access according to predefined security policies. These policies control who is allowed to use which privileged credentials when, where, and for what tasks. An organization’s policy may also require logging and recording of the actions undertaken with the privileged credentials.
Once implemented, PAM will improve your security posture in several ways. The first is by segregating day-to-day duties from duties that require elevated access, reducing the risk of accidental privileged actions. Secondly, automated password management reduces the possibility that credentials will be shared while also lowering the risk if credentials are accidentally exposed. Finally, extensive logging and activity recording in PAM solutions aids audits of critical system access for both preventative and forensic security.
How to Read this Report
This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:
Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.
GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.
Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.
Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure
Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:
- Ease of deployment
- Outstanding ROI
- Overall TCO improvement
Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.
Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:
- Improving overall performance for backups
- Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
- Replacing components difficult to manage and support
In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.
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