Password Studies

I collect passwords. After 20-some years in IT, I am fascinated by the passwords people choose.

Contrary to most mystery novels who use this device, people almost never have the password written on their desk. But if you know a few details about them, it’s not a leap to figure out what they’ve used.

A few things I’ve observed over the years:

  • The higher up a manager is on the chain, the more likely he is to use “abc123” as a password. I’m not sure what it is about being a CEO that makes it impossible to draft a basic pw, but that seems to be the standard. “Password” is another that they all think is clever.
  • Moms – especially single moms – tend to use one of their children’s names plus a birthdate. This is actually a pretty decent pw, as most people outside your family won’t know your kids’ birthdates. Just remember if you use this not to write the name & date on your wall calendar.
  • Guys frequently use their favorite sports figure’s name and number, like Bonds25 or Marino13. This will get you as far as the first casual Friday where you show up in the jersey.
  • It’s just absurd how many people use their own last name as a password. People, that’s not even trying, even when you get clever and spell it backward.
  • Likewise for people who use their street name and address. This is literally the easiest thing for people to find out about you before trying to steal your identity.
  • Pets are very common. There’s nothing wrong with this one unless you mention the cat by name at every opportunity.

I’d estimate that 80% of the passwords I’ve input for people over the years fall into one of the above categories. This is why when I meet someone new who has come up with something new and clever, I get the urge to call up every IT manager I know to tell them that there’s something new on the pike.

I don’t make that call, of course. Every IT shlub you know already has so many passwords floating around his head that adding more just for conversation’s sake is almost cruel.

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