Is your pet’s name making you vulnerable to cyber-criminals?

April 14th, 2021

With such a technology and onlinefocused world, passwords have become an annoying necessity in life.  We are always forgetting them, we are being constantly asked to change them, and worse; we are now being asked to make them more complicated by adding special symbols! 

It’s all too hard, so to make things simple for ourselves, what do we do? Our loved ones, birthdays and yes, of course, our pets’ names are top choices for password inspo. 

It’s only natural we use names that are special to us to help remember our never-ending list of passwords. In fact, a recent survey by The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) found that 15% of people used pets’ names, 14% use a family member’s name, and 13% pick a notable date. 

In other words, millions of people are using their pet’s names as their online passwords, and most likely, unknowingly making themselves easy targets for hackers and other online security issues. 

 

Does changing a password make you feel like you have to pick between your pets as you ask yourself, who is my favourite? 

If you’re struggling to decide which pet to use for your next password, or have already used a pet’s name as a password, now is the time to make a change. NCSC communications director Nicola Hudson warned:

“We may be a nation of animal lovers, but using your pet’s name as a password could make you an easy target for callous cyber-criminals.” 

 

How does your pet’s name password make you vulnerable to cybercriminals? 

Hackers or cyber-criminals regularly use programs or ‘bots’ to test thousands of password combinations in a method often termed ‘trial-and-error’. 

“Millions of accounts could be easily breached by criminals using trial-and-error techniques,” the NCSC warned. 

That is because a pet’s name could be cracked just by repeatedly plugging in common pet’s names like Bella, Coco, Luna or Milo.” 

 

What action can you take? 

Put simply, the best action you can take is to make sure you don’t use your pet’s name in any of your online passwords.  To make sure you have a strong password that’s less likely to get hacked, the NCSC advised people follow these tips: 

  • Pick three words that are unrelated to create a new password. The NCSC give the example RedPantsTree as three unrelated words. 
  • Make sure these are random words that cannot be guessed. 
  • Add exclamation points or other symbols to your password. 
  • Use numbers and letters, but make sure you do not birthdates. 
  • Use a completely different password for your email account. 

 

How can one person remember all these passwords? 

The easiest way to keep track of all your passwords is to use your web browser’s password manager. 

“With a password manager, you don’t have any excuse for bad passwords. A password manager lets you set up a vault with a master password, then add login items for pretty much anything. Enter your usernames, passwords, and other login information for a variety of sites and accounts, software you own, or even credit and debit card information.” (Hey you! Yes, you. Stop using your dog’s name as a password!, 2021) 

If you’re looking for something slightly more secure, you could try using a password manager software: 

 

At the end of the day, we all love our pets so much that it’s only natural to use their names in a password.  If that’s something you’ve done without understanding the risks, you now have some good tips to keep you and your information safe online.  So please, whatever you do, do not pick a password that’s from our popular dog names!

References

Tidy, J., 2021. Pets’ names used as passwords by millions, study finds. [online] BBC News. Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56680790> [Accessed 13 April 2021]. 

iMore. 2021. Hey you! Yes, you. Stop using your dog’s name as a password!. [online] Available at: <https://www.imore.com/stop-using-your-dogs-name-password-your-security-game> [Accessed 13 April 2021]. 

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