Don't tell us your password: the top ten

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Passwords rule our lives. You need one to access your computer, your email, your bank account, and on and on. To make matters worse, there are hordes of thieves and hackers out there trying to get the virtual keys to our online kingdoms, via phishing, the hacking of corporate databases, spyware, etc. So why is it, then -- despite ubiquitous warnings to the contrary -- that so many people still make their passwords simple, intuitive, and use the same ones over and over for years at a stretch? The simplest answer, which via Occam's Razor is probably the correct one, is that we're just lazy. If that's the case, and you can't bring yourself to memorize eight randomly-generated numbers and letters strung together rather than using the name of your family pet to secure that million-dollar 401k account, then at least take our advice and avoid these most commonly used passwords:

10. [The user's first name.] In Britain, the tenth most common password is "Thomas," which in 2000 was also the second most popular name given to male British children.

9. blink182. Lord knows, Blink182 isn't the most popular band in America. We're betting it has something to do with the fact that it combines numbers and letters, which many password engines require of new passwords these days. Just don't do it, people -- the band, or the password.

8. password1. Lazy, lazy lazy.

7. myspace1. This is likely a testament to the staggering number of people that have MySpace.com accounts, all of which require a password. (We think it's up to about 177 million now; that's how many friends MySpace co-founder and face-of-myspace Tom Anderson has. And everybody is Tom's friend.)

6. monkey. This one baffles us a bit. 1.33% of all passwords are "monkey," which may be because a) it's six letters long, the minimum number allowable in most passwords, b) easy to remember and c) the keys required to type it are spaced out in a way that makes typing it quick, and actually, sort of pleasant. (Monkey. Monkey monkey monkey. I could type that all day.) If there's some other reason that millions of Americans use this as their password, I'd rather not know about it.

5. letmein. I guess there's a certain power thrill in commanding a site to "letmein" and then being obeyed?

The top four passwords are so mind-numbingly lazy they require almost no comment. They are:

4. abc123

3. qwerty

2. 123456

1. password

Let's just hope that people using any of the above four passwords don't really care if their respective accounts are safe or not. I'll admit to making up crappy passwords like, say, "password" when forced to register for a website that I'm only ever going to view once, and on which I leave basically no personal information. But statistically, it's a sure bet that somewhere out there are nuclear secrets or marriage-ruining emails flimsily protected with a mere "123456." Don't let it happen to you!

Thanks to our friends at Howstuffworks for the cool close-up of a lock!

May 21, 2007 - 6:52am
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