It’s the time of year when the poor password practices of users are highlighted. This month has seen the list of the worst passwords of 2018 published and a list of 2018’s worst password offenders.
The Worst Passwords of 2018
So, what were the worst passwords of 2018? SplashData has recently published a list of the worst passwords of 2018 which shows little has changed since last year. End users are still making very poor password choices.
To compile the list, SplashData analyzed passwords that had been revealed through data dumps of passwords obtained in data breaches. More than 5 million exposed passwords were sorted to find out not only the weakest passwords used, but just how common they were. The list of the top 100 worst passwords of 2018 was published, although we have only listed the top 25 worst passwords of 2018:
Top 25 Worst Passwords of 2018
Unsurprisingly, there has been no change in the top two passwords this year. 123456 and password have held number 1 and 2 spots for the past five years. Donald is a new addition but would not keep a user’s account secure for long, even if their name isn’t Donald. 654321 is also new this year but offers little more protection than 123456.
Other new entries include qwerty123 and password1 – Clear attempts to get around the requirement of including numbers and letters in a password.
How common are the worst passwords of 2018? According to SplashData, 3% of users have used 123456 and 10% of people have used at least one password in the list of the top 25 worst passwords of 2018!
Poor Password Practices and the Worst Password Offenders of 2018
DashLane has published its list of the worst password offenders of the year. In addition to the list containing users who have made very poor password choices by selecting some of the worst passwords of 2018, the report highlights some of the terrible password practices that many individuals are guilty of. Poor password practices that render their passwords absolutely useless.
This year has seen many major password failures, several of which came from the White House, where security is critical. Topping the list was a password faux pas by a visitor to the oval office – Kanye West. Not only was ‘Ye’ guilty of using one of the worst possible passwords on his phone ‘000000’, he also unlocked his phone in full view of an office full of reporters who were filming his meeting with President Trump. Ye’s poor password was broadcast to the nation (and around the world). This incident highlights the issue of ‘shoulder surfing.’ Looking over someone’s shoulder at their screen to see passwords being entered. Something that can easily happen in public places.
Another White House password failure concerned a staffer who committed the cardinal password sin of writing down a username and password to make it easier to remember. It is something that many employees do, but most do not write it on White House stationary and then leave the document at a bus stop.
Password security should be exemplary at the White House, but even more so at the Pentagon. Even staff at the Pentagon are guilty of poor password hygiene, as was discovered by Government Accountability Office (GAO) auditors. GAO auditors discovered default passwords were used for software associated with weapons systems. Default passwords are publicly available online which renders them totally useless. GAO auditors were also able to guess admin passwords with full privileges in only 9 seconds.
These are just three examples of terrible password practices. While they are shocking given the individuals concerned, they are sadly all too common.
Password Best Practices to Keep Accounts Secure
A password prevents other individuals from gaining access to an account and the sensitive information contained therein. Choose a strong password or passphrase and it will help to make sure that personal (or business) information remains confidential. Choose a weak password and an account can easily get hacked. Choose an exceptionally weak password and you may as well have no password at all.
To ensure passwords are effective, make sure you adopt the password best practices detailed below:
- Make sure you set a password – Never leave any account open
- Always change default passwords – They are just placeholders and are next to useless
- Never reuse old passwords
- Use a unique password for all accounts – Never use the same password for multiple accounts
- Do not use names, dictionary words, or strings of consecutive numbers or letters
- Ensure passwords are longer than 8 characters and contain at least one number, lowercase letter, uppercase letter, and a symbol – Long passphrases that are known only to you are ideal
- Use a random mix of characters for passwords and use a password manager so you don’t have to remember them. Just make sure you set a very strong password for your password manager master password.
- Set up multi-factor authentication on all of your accounts
- Never write down a password
- Never share passwords with others, no matter how much you trust them
Password Best Practices for Businesses
Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed 81% of hacking-related data breaches were due to weak passwords or stolen credentials. It is therefore critical that businesses adopt password best practices and ensure users practice good password hygiene. Businesses need to:
- Train end users on good password hygiene and password best practices
- Enforce the use of strong passwords: Blacklist dictionary words, previously exposed passwords, previously used passwords, and commonly used weak passwords
- Set the minimum password length to 8 characters (or more) and avoid setting a maximum length to encourage the use of passphrases.
- Follow the password advice published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
- Don’t enforce password changes too often. End users will just reuse old passwords or make very minor changes to past passwords.
- Implement multi-factor authentication
- Encrypt all stored passwords
- Consider the use of other authentication methods – Fingerprint scanners, facial recognition software, voice prints, or iris scans