Social networking site breach exposes most popularly used passwords

An analysis of more than 32 million exposed passwords revealed "123456" as the most commonly used security code when logging into online accounts.

Social networking services and customized widget company, Rockyou.com, suffered a data breach in December 2009.

The breach included millions of people's email addresses and passwords for Rockyou.com (and in many cases passwords and login details for associated social networking sites). The hacker responsible for the attack subsequently posted the full list of passwords on the internet.

The compromised password and login data was examined by US-based security company, Imperva Application Defense Center (ADC).

The ease and scale of this security breach should read as a warning to everyone logging onto web-based social networks, email accounts or online ecommerce sites - especially those who use the same passwords for multiple accounts.

Pairing short, uncomplicated and easy-to-guess passwords with identical login credentials for multiple sites can put you at serious risk of identity theft and can easily result in your accounts being compromised by prying eyes.

"Everyone needs to understand what the combination of poor passwords means in today's world of automated cyber attacks: with only minimal effort, a hacker can gain access to one new account every second-or 1000 accounts every 17 minutes," explained Imperva's CTO Amichai Shulman in a January 21 report announcement.

"The data provides a unique glimpse into the way that users select passwords and an opportunity to evaluate the true strength of passwords as a security mechanism. Never before has there been such a high volume of real-world passwords to examine."

Surprisingly, the analysis of the Rockyou.com data confirms that consumer password habits have changed very little over the past two decades. Almost 50 percent of users opt for passwords that are names and easily understood words or use trivial passwords such as consecutive digits and adjacent keyboard keys.

A full analysis of the 32 million Rockyou.com passwords show the most commonly used passwords are:
1. 123456
2. 12345
3. 123456789
4. Password
5. iloveyou
6. princess
7. rockyou
8. 1234567
9. 12345678
10. abc123

To keep your accounts safe, NASA recommends adhering to the following steps when creating a password:

1. It should contain at least eight characters.
2. It should contain a mix of four different types of characters - upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and special characters such as !@#$%^&*,;" If there is only one letter or special character, it should not be either the first or last character in the password.
3. It should not be a name, a slang word, or any word in the dictionary. It should not include any part of your name or your e-mail address.
4. Choose a strong password for sites where you care about the privacy of the information you store. Bruce Schneier's advice is useful: "take a sentence and turn it into a password. Something like "This little piggy went to market" might become "tlpWENT2m." That nine-character password won't be in anyone's dictionary."
5. Use a different password for all sites - even for the ones where privacy isn't an issue. To help remember the passwords, again, following Bruce Schneier's advice is recommended: "If you can't remember your passwords, write them down and put the paper in your wallet. But just write the sentence - or better yet - a hint that
will help you remember your sentence."
6. Never trust a third party with your important passwords (webmail, banking, medical etc.)

The information formed part of Imperva's Consumer Password Worst Practices report.

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