Wednesday, 7 October 2009

How safe is your password?

A large number of hacked usernames and passwords for Hotmail, Gmail, AOL and Yahoo email accounts have recently been posted online. There is a suspicion that the lists were posted due to a fall-out with 2 hackers.

Analysis of the lists has shown that weak passwords are extremely widespread, with 123456 being one of the most common passwords. Dates of birth are also regularly used as passwords, despite the fact that banks often use that information as a secondary form of security.

Good advice is to use a password made up of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols, such as p45sw03d.5%. These are extremely difficult to guess, but also hard to remember. Better advice is to use an old postcode as your password, with your own initials in the middle – e.g, LA1md3BA. This is easy for you to remember but difficult to guess. You should also change your passwords on a regular basis, of course.

However, the best possible advice is not to click links in emails which try to take you to a website which requires your username and password. Keep such websites as Bookmarks or Favourites and always use these to go to sensitive web sites.

You are more likely to receive these “phishing” emails if you appear on the spammers target lists – collated from PCs with viruses. See the earlier blog “Why you should not forward chain mails…” for one way to avoid being spammed.

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© Michael Donkin 2009