Why Passwords Are A Soft Target

I have said it before, and I will repeat it now:  passwords by themselves are no longer a useful form of security.  The only option that makes passwords secure is two-factor authentication.  Today we embark on a two week investigation into passwords, why they are so easy to break, how your password might be compromised, and how to create a password system that is less vulnerable to exploitation.

Why are passwords so easy to crack?  Some of the answers we have discussed before, but bear repeating.

  • Reusing passwords – 60% of people use the same password on more than one site.  The average user has 26 password protected site, but is using only 5 passwords to protect them.
  • Human predictability – We tend to use passwords and phrases that are memorable to us, such as family names, street address, birth date, anniversaries, and pet names.  Combining these ideas to create “difficult” passwords does not keep a skilled hacker from guessing your password.  In business environments that enforce regular password changes, it is common to use month and year combinations such as May2018! as a password
  • Memorization – 85% of people keep track of passwords through memorization.  Another 7% write them down in lists or spiral notebooks.  Only 8% use a password manager to keep track of passwords.
  • Weak by design – We continue to see the same weak passwords in the each year in the top 25 worst passwords list.   Qwerty and 12345678 are not strong passwords but continue to show up at the top of the list.  Short passwords can be cracked quickly using automated tools, by 8 characters continues to be the recommended minimum length of most password policies.

Tomorrow we will look at how long it takes for an attacker to compromise your password.

A special thanks to Panda Security for inspiring the content of this series and providing us with the infographics used in this series.


About the Author:

Cybersecurity guru to business owners in the St Paul, Minneapolis, and western Wisconsin area. Computer security and hacking have been a passion of mine since I entered the computer and networking business in 2000. In 2013 I completed a course of study and certification exam to become a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). In 2016 I was certified as a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). As Cybersecurity Analyst at The WyzCo Group, I help our clients experience high levels of computer security, network security, and web site security. In addition to consulting on security products and services, we also conduct security audits, vulnerability assessments and full penetration tests. We also provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training for clients and their employees. We also work with companies and organizations that need to certify compliance with regulations such as PCI-DSS (credit card processing), HIPAA/HITECH (medical records), and GLBA. The views expressed on this Web site are mine alone and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer.

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