Hackers use terrible passwords too


Lots of people are putting themselves, as well as others, at risk by using weak passwords like their phone number, a loved one's name, date of birth, "password", "123456" or "qwerty". You would assume that those who can crack their passwords, or create malware, do not exhibit the same irresponsible behavior, right?

According to security company Avast, hackers are not much different from the rest of us. Sure, they may not use "123456", the most popular weak password of last year, but their passwords are not too far off, as the majority of them only contain lower-case letters. And, on average, a hacker's password is just six characters long.

Only 10 percent of their passwords can be considered beyond "normal capabilities of guessing or cracking". There are hackers who may have used complex passwords, but stored them in plain text, which nullifies their security efforts. Furthermore, nine percent of passwords are taken right from the English dictionary, which suggests they can be cracked with little effort.

Based on Avast's findings, only a very small part of the sampled passwords are longer than 12 characters, while most of them are in the three to eight characters-long interval. Hackers make heavy use of IT and leet speak, but most do not include any upper-case letters (only about seven percent feature a combination of lower-case and upper-case letters, or numbers and lower-case and upper-case letters).

Special characters are used in roughly six percent of sampled passwords, with the most popular being the space (" "), dot ("."), at ("@"), underscore ("_") and hyphen ("-"), while ones like "=", "~" and "|" did not even make the cut.

Avast has analyzed 40,000 samples of hacker passwords from malware samples, which the company has collected over years of developing security software, discovering nearly 2,000 unique ones and 1,255 stored in plain text. A further 346 passwords were the result of cracked MD5 hashes, due to a short length of less than nine characters.

A sample of 1,601 passwords (the ones stored in plain text with cracked passwords from MD5 hashes) was used to generate these statistics. You can read more about the findings by hitting the link in the second paragraph.

Photo Credit: JMiks/Shutterstock

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