Sequential strings of numbers and ‘password’ remain the most popular password choices for users around the world despite their insecurity.
Annual research into the top 200 most popular passwords has been published by NordPass also revealed that in the UK, names of football teams also ranked highly among the most-used passwords of the year.
For example, ‘liverpool’ was the fourth most popular password of the year, while ‘arsenal’, ‘chelsea’, and ‘liverpool1’ were all in the top 15.
Regional results from the likes of France revealed similarly insecure password practices, but the actual passwords themselves differed. For example, 'azerty' was the third most popular password in the country - the equivalent of 'qwert' on a French keyboard layout.
NordPass also included datasets sorted by user gender, revealing some notable differences in password frequency. In the US, the most used password by users identifying as women was ‘guest’ versus the old favourite of ‘12345’ among users identifying as men.
Both genders in the UK used ‘password’ and ‘123456’ as their top choices, but stark differences were visible in the remainder of the top five results: ‘charlie’, ‘tigger’, and ‘sunshine’ versus ‘mosh2021’, ‘12345’, and ‘liverpool’ were the results for women and men respectively.
Data from all 30 countries, however, revealed general uniformity in passwords, with only the inclusion of ‘bigbasket’ as the seventh most-used password by women worldwide standing out as an anomaly.
The most secure password to make the top 200 list was ‘9136668099’, which NordPass estimates would take hackers around four days to crack. However, beyond this figure, it is still far from a secure password, as it contains no letters or special characters whatsoever.
Regularly updating one’s password is good security practice, and experts recommend straying away from using easy-to-guess words or phrases, or anything that a threat actor could link to you with no trouble.
There are a range of password-cracking techniques used by hackers but brute force attacks, in which hackers guess a victim’s password using various forms of trial and error, are common.
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Hackers can use powerful hardware such as GPUs for password-cracking, which can cut down the time required to unearth credentials, but the simplest brute force attacks simply involve trying common passwords until access is granted - reason enough for users to stray away from using anything that resembles a password in the top 200.
Employees should not be using shared passwords across multiple logins, particularly for accounts pertaining to sensitive business data, to prevent data breaches. Businesses are often urged to use multi-factor authentication in addition to a strong password policy, to ensure that unwanted individuals have overcome that extra hurdle in order to access sensitive accounts.
These can be used to create distinct passwords for all of a user’s accounts, and store them all behind a master password (used to access the password manager itself).
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Rory Bathgate is Features and Multimedia Editor at ITPro, overseeing all in-depth content and case studies. He can also be found co-hosting the ITPro Podcast with Jane McCallion, swapping a keyboard for a microphone to discuss the latest learnings with thought leaders from across the tech sector.
In his free time, Rory enjoys photography, video editing, and good science fiction. After graduating from the University of Kent with a BA in English and American Literature, Rory undertook an MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies at King’s College London. He joined ITPro in 2022 as a graduate, following four years in student journalism. You can contact Rory at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.