What can your enterprise learn from the worst passwords?

Don’t let your users get away with poor password hygiene

27th December 2018Blog

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Splash Data released its roundup of the worst passwords, which are as abysmal as ever. This spells trouble for enterprises because, as noted by IBM X-Force Red senior managing consultant Dustin Heywood, passwords are simple, familiar, baked into devices and, therefore, here to stay.

But it’s not all bad news: While users won’t magically become password protection champions, there are actionable steps security teams can take to limit login risk.

The ‘Best’ of the Worst Passwords 

Popular on this year’s list were numbers. Some, such as aa123456 (No. 22) and qwerty123 (No. 25), were clearly attempts to satisfy enterprise password policies. But as Heywood noted, cracking eight-character passwords is no problem for current-generation graphics processing unit (GPU) technology.

Symbol-rich offerings, such as !@#$%^&* (No. 20) — which is just a shift-key version of 12345678 — also made the list. Cracking the top 20 were 654321 (No. 19) and 666666 (No. 14). And while most were repeats from 2017, princess broke into the top 15 this year at No. 11.

At No. 9 is perennial favorite qwerty, preceded by sunshineand 111111. Taking the top two spots were the same terrible, terrible passwords from last year: password and 123456.

Password Security Tips That Will Stick

Despite continuing education and repeated warnings, well-meaning users are still picking simple, easily-cracked passwords. What simple, easy-to-implement tips can security teams preach to their employees?

  • Keep it uniqueCreate a no-repeat policy. According to Heywood, duplicate passwords enable threat actors to breach corporate networks using stolen credentials.
  • Adopt a password managerPassword management tools create unique passwords for multiple accounts — ones that won’t end up on Splash Data’s annual list — and use strong encryption to secure data.
  • Go long! Longer passwords are more secure, but strings of random symbols aren’t memorable. A better idea is to let users create longer passphrases that include spaces and special characters. Essentially, you’re asking employees to tell a story that they’ll remember but threat actors will find hard to guess.
  • Factor upMultifactor authentication provides a critical buffer against bad passwords. While SMS codes are no longer secure, authenticator applications can significantly reduce the chance of network compromise.

As evidenced by this year’s “Worst Passwords” list, user credentials aren’t getting any stronger. Don’t let your users get away with poor password hygiene. Implement stronger policies, invest in password management technology and ensure that your employees understand their role in keeping enterprise networks secure from credentials-stealing cybercriminals.

SourceSplash Data

Written by Douglas Bonderud

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