Passwords to avoid – unless you want to be hacked

 ·31 Dec 2022

A new study has revealed the residents with the best and worst cyber security across Europe. Cybercrime is a continuing threat to online security, with 2021 seeing a 50% increase in cyber attacks on company networks over 2020.

Selling stolen data is a driver behind these increases, with hackers able to make millions from compromised accounts. It’s predicted that in 2023 alone, cybercriminals will steal around 33 billion records online.

Austria is most at risk of online threats, with the average time to crack the top thirty passwords standing at 0.27 seconds. Russia has the second worst cybersecurity, with the top thirty passwords taking just 8.96 seconds on average to crack.

The average time taken to hack a password across all European countries was around 14 hours, just over half a day. 84% of the 25 European countries had ‘123456’ as the most commonly used password, taking 0 seconds to crack.

Guessing passwords takes far too much time when attempting to breach thousands of accounts, instead, hackers employ brute force attacks using code and robotic networks that automatically input the most commonly used passwords.

Custard Technical Services have tested passwords across 25 countries in Europe, to reveal the residents with the best and worst cyber security.

The average time taken to hack a password across all European countries was around 14 hours, just over half a day.

Austria uses some of the most common passwords across Europe, with ‘123456’ and ‘password’ being the top two, both taking 0 seconds for code to guess.

According to Nord Pass, the top most commonly used passwords across all countries in the world are as follows:

  • 123456
  • 123456789
  • 12345
  • qwerty
  • password
  • 12345678
  • 111111
  • 123123
  • 1234567890
  • 1234567

Robert Hinds, security specialist at Custard Technical Services said: “Ensuring your online accounts are protected is more important than ever before. Hackers are constantly testing accounts with brute force software, and will eventually access an account that uses simple, common passwords.

“For people at home this means shopping accounts could be breached, with bank account details leaked and items bought.

“For the business user, a breach could lead to data lost and sold online without fully knowing what data has been compromised.

“Never use personal information when setting a password, and never reveal potential passwords or security questions online – such as your first car or pet. Revealing this data could make you an easy target.

“To create a strong password you’ll need a combination of numbers, capital letters, characters, and symbols. However, you should make sure the number sequences you insert into your passwords are not common, for example 123456. Include a memorable number sequence that is personal to you, avoiding your birthday.

Passwords with no uppercase letters can be cracked almost instantly. The more characters, symbols, and variations a password has, the better the combination.

“Prioritise the length of your password. Passwords should be around 16 characters, if not more. Try to avoid using real words, make up a strong word, number and character combination and then write it down somewhere you’ll remember. Don’t save or share passwords in online documents, and never repeat passwords across accounts.”

Other passwords to avoid

Recent data from password manager NordPass has revealed the world’s most common passwords.

Over 2022, the popular “123456” was replaced with “password”, which is currently the password most used worldwide, according to NordPass.

The group identified password trends worldwide, their usage, and the way they changed in light of pop culture, gender and jurisdiction.

To come up with the list, NordPass compiled it in partnership with independent research specialising in cybersecurity incidents, and they evaluated 3 terabytes of data.

NordPass found that these were the top 20 most common passwords (Here is the full list of the 200 weakest passwords in the world):

  • password
  • 123456
  • 12345678
  •  guest
  • qwerty
  • 12345678
  • 111111
  • 12345
  • col123456
  • 123123
  • 1234567
  • 1234
  • 1234567890
  • 000000
  • 555555
  • 666666
  • 123321
  • 654321
  • 7777777
  • 123

NordPass said that despite continuous warnings from industry experts about the consequences of irresponsible password management, internet users still fell victim.

The group reported that 73% of the 200 most common passwords in 2022 remain the same as the year before. 83% of passwords can also typically be cracked in a second.

What do cybersecurity experts advise?

“Even though companies implement security measures to protect our accounts, every user still needs to be careful with their passwords.”

Below are a few essential tips to improve your password “hygiene”, provided by NordPass:

1. Be aware of all accounts that are in your possession

Experts recommend deleting unused accounts and knowing the exact number of those that are active. This way, you can prevent gaps in your password management.

2. Make long, unique passwords, and never reuse them

Complicated combinations of numbers, uppercase, and lowercase letters, and symbols make the most robust passwords.

“Reusing them is never an option — if one account gets hacked, other accounts are at risk.”

3. Use a password manager

This technological solution fully encrypts the passwords stored in the vault and allows secure sharing.

Many cybersecurity incidents happen because of simple human mistakes — people leave their passwords openly accessible for others and store them in Excel or other unencrypted applications.

Read: 48,000 South Africans had their online data stolen by bots – this is how much it sells for on the dark web

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