Fix your passwords (and use two factor authentication!)


Recently Keeper Security looked at 10 million stolen passwords and their blog post of the most popular passwords has me thinking. Two main thoughts actually:

  • Why do people (individual consumers) put so little effort into passwords after all the press we have seen?
  • And – why are companies still not following best practices when it comes to allowing consumers to create these passwords?

Where have these people been? And why are they allowed to continue such sloppy bad practices?

What are the top 10 passwords found in those 10 million stolen passwords in 2016 according to Keeper Security’s findings:

  1. 123456
  2. 123456789
  3. qwerty
  4. 12345678
  5. 111111
  6. 1234567890
  7. 1234567
  8. password
  9. 123123
  10. 987654321

Guess what were the top 10 most common passwords back in 2010 (from passwords stolen from the rockyou site – so a much smaller data set)?

  1. 123456 (still number 1 in 2016)
  2. 12345
  3. 123456789 (moved up to number 2 in 2016)
  4. password (at least it dropped to number 8 in 2016)
  5. iloveyou
  6. princess (where did this come from?)
  7. rockyou (remember the name of the site?)
  8. 1234567 (moved up one spot in 2016)
  9. 12345678 (moved up to number 4 in 2016)
  10. abc123

Looks very similar, huh? We haven’t learned anything in 6 years!

I am just like everyone else. I have a limited number of passwords I use at most of my web sites. Security experts would suggest you have a totally different password for every site you go to and you keep them safely in your head (or use a password manager!). I can’t do that. There is just no way. But I do have a few simple passwords I use for “normal” sites. And I have special (more complex) passwords I use for more sensitive sites like my email. And then very secure sites, like my banking web sites, I do have unique separate very complex passwords for each of them. I don’t have the best memory (honestly, I have a pretty bad memory). But I follow some simples rules, the first being never ever ever use a word from the dictionary with all lower cases. Even the lowest level password I have is a mixture of upper and lower case and numbers. And it’s not a word in a dictionary, but it is something I can remember easily.

Simple rules of thumb when picking a password are:

  • Pick something you can remember (a sticky note is not secure! and if you have to write it down, don’t tape it to your monitor!)
  • Don’t use any part of your name, your user name, your spouse’s name, your kid’s name, your dog’s name, etc.
  • Don’t use your birthday, your kids birthday, your street number, etc.
  • Don’t use a common word in a dictionary
  • Always use a mix of upper and lower case
  • Always have at least one number
  • Always have at least one special character
  • Use passwords longer than the normal 5 or 6 characters; I suggest 8 or 9 characters or more.

I know that list seems impossible, but it really isn’t too hard to follow. I have a Sys Admin friend who always uses pass phrases (similar to number 5 on the rockyou list above, iloveyou) as his passwords. But he uses mix case (iLoveYou), adds in numbers (1L0v3Y0u), and special characters, so in the end “iloveyou” becomes “1L0>3Y0u!” or something similar. And honestly he would never use a passphrase as simple (or as clean) as i love you.

So, go fix your passwords! At least on your email and banking sites. And remember – 1L0>3Y0u!

And turn on two-factor authentication! Most popular sites have a two factor option now.

Apple’s Two-factor Authentication (which replaced Apple’s old Two-Step Verification, which was basically the same thing pre-iOS 9), go to the My Apple ID page and sign in. Look for Security > Two-Factor Authentication and click “Get Started…”

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204915

Google calls its system 2-Step Verification.

https://yourcto.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/2-step-verification-for-gmail/
https://www.google.com/landing/2step/

Facebook has two factor authentication, but they call it Login Approvals, access it by going to Settings > Security. Click “Edit” next to Login Approvals and “Enable” on the top right.

https://www.facebook.com/help/loginapprovals

And Google has a nice checklist you should know about:
https://yourcto.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/security-check-list-from-google/

The Keeper Security blog post:
https://blog.keepersecurity.com/2017/01/13/most-common-passwords-of-2016-research-study/

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