Michael Lerner

Wednesday - Dec 29, 2010

Do Not TrackHow many online accounts do you have that require passwords? I stopped counting at fifty–banking, airlines, e-mail, health care, credit cards, Linkedin, Facebook, Amazon…the list goes on.

Passwords are what stand between you and giving anyone access to your personal information. But if you’re like most people, the passwords you choose barely challenge even the laziest cyber-criminal.

Recently, Gawker Media, purveyor of Internet gossip and other pop culture fare, was hacked. A group named “Gnosis” claimed responsibility. It also claimed to have stolen over a million e-mail addresses and passwords of Gawker members and staff.

The Wall Street Journal obtained of some of the data and ran an analysis on over 188,000 passwords. What’s the most common password? Here’s a hint: You may even use it yourself. Answer: 123456.

(If that’s yours, change it immediately!)

The runner up wasn’t much more creative: password.

In third place was this clever octet: 12345678.

Are these passwords indicative of ones commonly used for say, an online banking account? Or are they indicative of the casual way people treat their Gawker membership? I suspect it’s the latter.

These days, security-minded sites require strong passwords with a handful of letters, a pinch of numbers and maybe a capital letter or symbol thrown in for really secret sites.

Gawker didn’t require any of that from its members and now the media  hipsters are probably very embarrassed by the unoriginality of their fans. But it gets worse.

An analysis by Forbes revealed that Gawker’s staffers are equally as unsecurityminded. (Is that a word?). Forbes’ forensics revealed that Gawksters used “either common dictionary words or slight variations thereof.” One had the gall to use his own name followed by “1”.

I fully admit to being as lazy as the next guy in devising new passwords. But take note all you hackers: I definitely don’t use a simple string of letters or numbers.

Here’s the moral of this story: To your growing list of New Years’ Resolutions, add this one:  Review your passwords. My gift to you:  Tips for choosing secure passwords. Cheers.