Human affection for animal companions knows no bounds. But maybe it should, as research shows that thousands of people put their online security at risk by easily allowing outsiders to guess passwords to their digital locks.
Independent polling by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) shows that a worrying 15% of Britons use their pet's name to protect their online accounts. Pet names are notoriously easy to crack for anyone with at least a shadow of expertise and dedication.
Not only many pet names are prevalent, but people can also easily forget that their pet’s name was made public in an online post, picture, or mentioned otherwise. Attempts to acquire a password using social engineering techniques are easier for bad actors if the key is a pet's name.
NCSCs survey shows that almost half of all respondents use predictable passwords. 14% admitted their passwords were names of family members, 13% said their password was based on an important date, and 6% said they were using their favorite sports name as a password.
"We may be a nation of animal lovers, but using your pet's name as a password could make you an easy target for callous cybercriminals," Nicola Hudson, NCSC Director for Policy and Communications, said in a press release.
Even worse, a staggering 6% of participants said they were using the word 'password' for actual account password. That means millions of accounts are ripe and ready to be exploited by almost anyone able to type.
Survey also showed that at least 6% of people use the same password for multiple accounts, a major red flag for anyone concerned with their online safety. With billions of people working from home, the collective online footprint we all leave has gotten a lot bigger.
NCSC claims that 27% of Brits created at least four new password-protected accounts over the past year. 6% added as many as ten new accounts. Owners of accounts with predictable and manageable passwords are easy prey for cybercriminals, who have been particularly active over the past year.
Earlier this month, the CyberNews investigation team analyzed over 15 billion passwords leaked from multiple data breaches. The research shows that most common passwords are laughably easy to crack, with all-time hits like '123456' topping the list.
Our analysis shows that the vast majority of passwords were not up to standard, with various dates, curse words, city names, foods, and common names used as passwords. Not only that, but most passwords used eight or fewer characters making it even easier to crack open an account.
There are much better ways to create a strong password. For example, making up a unique phrase and applying various symbols for a stronger effect. The best way, however, would be using a password manager, a tool that helps to create strong passwords you don't even have to remember.
Take a look at our team's list for the best free password managers if you're interested.