Britons Choose Lousy Passwords, Google Finds
A word cloud depicting the 500 most common passwords weighted to represent their frequency.
CREDIT: Mark Burnett | xato.net
The next time you create a new password, you'd better leave Fido and Felix out of it.
A recent survey of 2,000 people in the United Kingdom found that as many as one in six Internet users included their pets' names in their online passwords.
The survey, which was commissioned by Google, also found that nearly as many Britons had passwords consisting of significant — and hence easy-to-guess — dates, such as wedding anniversaries or the birthday of a close relation.
The prevalence of insecure passwords in the U.K. is a little unnerving, considering that 50 percent of survey respondents said they knew someone whose online accounts had been hacked.
One in six Britons admitted to accessing someone else's account by guessing his or her password.
Lousy passwords might be only part of the problem. Nearly half of those polled (48 percent) said they'd shared their online passwords with someone else.
Women were found to be twice as likely as men to share passwords with some of the least secretive people around: their children.
That wasn't the only way that kids were found to be messing up online security. Children's names came in at No. 4 on Google's list of the most commonly used types of passwords.
Those were followed by names of other family members, places of birth, favorite holidays, sports references, names of paramours and, of course, the word "password."
In an interview with The Telegraph, Google Apps' director of security, Eran Feigenbaum, noted the problems associated with such easy-to-guess passwords.
"People often leave their information open to online security breached without even realizing it," Feigenbaum said. "Lax attitudes to online security can lead to serious consequences if strangers access your information."
There are a few easy ways to keep your passwords out of the hands of cybercriminals.
"Simple steps, such as choosing more complicated passwords, always logging out of services and considering two-factor authentication — which requires more than just a password to access your account — can make a real difference to your online security," Feigenbaum said.
Many commonly used websites have begun using two-step verification to help keep accounts secure for their users. You can set up this added measure of security on Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Apple and Yahoo!
Avoid using using passwords that can be easily guessed by hackers. Experts say that strong passwords include at least 10 characters and should include both upper and lower-case letters, as well as numerals and special characters.
If you need help remembering your new, hard-to-guess passwords, try a secure password manager such as LastPass. Such apps help you create strong passwords, as well as keep track of them all, in the cloud.