If It's A Word, It's Not A Password - On Data Privacy

If It’s A Word, It’s Not A Password

It’s true you know.  If your password is a word, it’s not a password.  You might be using it as your password of course.  But then so can anyone else.

On our sister website at GDPR for Hotels, there’s a blog post revealing 100,000 passwords you shouldn’t use.  You shouldn’t use them because hackers know what they are and the downloadable list is just one example of the resources they can deploy to break into your online accounts.

Click to see the blog post

If you download the list (and I recommend you do) and scroll through it, there might be a few passwords you recognise.  There are many where an attempt has been made to make words a bit more cryptic.  Which is laudable but fundamentally flawed.  You see we’re all people and we’re all doing similar things.  Hackers know this and they are able to take advantage of the fact that, where words are concerned, nothing is unique.

You Need To Make More Of An Effort

If you are just using words as your login password, hackers have access to lists of words.  They might start with a dictionary for example.  They can also deploy lists of names.  Which means simple words are of limited use to you.  They are vulnerable to “brute force” attacks, where  hacker will simply knock on the door of your online account with a username and password combination.  They can do this millions of times unless appropriate security is in place.

Worried You’ll Forget?

If you are using a more complex password there is always the problem that you might forget what it is.  So structure it in a way which makes it easier to remember.

One wonderful example of what can be done popped up in an episode of a comedy series shown here in Scotland (where I live), called “Still Game”.  All of the main characters in Still Game are elderly,  however many of them are quite internet savvy.  Especially one character, the wonderfully nosey, gossip mongering “Isa”.  She knows what everyone is up to.  She is also a regular internet user.  In one scene of the show we discover what Isa’s internet password is.  She starts by using words, and it goes something like this:

“I noticed Jeannie Smith from down the road has lost a lot of weight she says she’s been on a diet but I think she’s had a gastric band fitted”

Of course, Isa has been told to use a combination of letters and numbers, so she finishes her password with a “46”.

It is a very funny scene.

But there is a serious point.  How easy is it going to be to hack that password?

You can use expressions or phrases known only to you.  Mix them up a bit with symbols and numbers and you make yourself just that bit more difficult to hack.

Or save yourself a lot of anguish and use a proper password manager which generates really cryptic passwords and make use of 2-factor authentication wherever it is offered.

The modern data economy is upon us.  We all have a part to play.  Taking basic steps to protect our personal and workplace online accounts is a good way to start playing your part properly.

So if you’re just using simple words, you’re not using a proper password.  Not any more.

Want to know more about sharing your own personal data?

There’s a book about that…