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Passwords: why millions of us are open to a cyber attack

Passwords. From email accounts and online banking, to social media and click & collect shopping, almost every digital platform we use requires the inevitable password.

Passwords are a pain. Hands up if you have trouble remembering them? And we’ve always been told never to write them down, right? Unfortunately, they’re unavoidable and they’re there for a reason: to ensure security and confidentiality and to prove and protect your identity. So, why are millions of us using easy-to-guess passwords and leaving our most sensitive and personal data open to cyber attack?


Cyber survey

In a recent cyber survey carried out by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), analysis revealed that ‘123456’ was the most widely-used password on accounts breached by cyber criminals. In fact, ‘123456’ appears in more than 23 million passwords closely followed by ‘123456789’, ‘qwerty’, ‘password’ and ‘1111111’.

It would also seem we’re fond of choosing names for our passwords. Ashley, Michael, Daniel, Jessica and Charlie are the most commonly used. Premier League football clubs – Liverpool in the champions spot followed by Chelsea in second – are also used in guessable passwords with Blink-182 revealed as the most popular music-related password.


Let’s make it easy to remember

“It’s very clear from the survey that individuals are creating passwords that are easy and quick to remember and that’s no real surprise,” comments Duncan Austin, Cloud director here at etiCloud. “We’ve already got so much going on in our lives that trying to recall a string of complex and different passwords for every account we use is the last thing we need. The answer? Pick one password that we can memorise, retain and use over and over again. That’s the mistake so many of us is making.

“By using well-known words or names to protect our sensitive data online, we’re making ourselves vulnerable and putting that data at risk of being hacked. And being hacked doesn’t just mean receiving spam email. If cyber criminals get hold of personal data, they can wreak havoc both financially and emotionally.”


No, let’s make it hard to guess

Continues Duncan: “If you’re one of those millions of people using ‘123456’ as your password for multiple accounts, stop! Take control of your personal online security, starting with your main email account, and creating a hard-to-guess password for that account.

“The NCSC suggests stringing three random, but memorable (that’s the key!) words together to create what’s called a ‘strong password’. Have a think about what those three words could be; perhaps a top holiday destination, favourite ice cream flavour and the colour of your car? Once you’ve decided on a deliberate but well-thought out combination, consider a few more strings of words that you can then use on other accounts and you’ll be one step closer to beating those hackers at their own game.”

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