Report: 9 Most Common Password Mistakes That Leave Your Accounts Vulnerable

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What was the inspiration for the last password you created for an online account?

It’s human nature to reflect fondly on memorable events, dates, people or pets when it comes time to “fill in the blank” on a new account password.

But it’s those personal details that can get us in trouble when nefarious characters try to steal our information online.

Internet security company ExpressVPN recently conducted a survey that revealed many of us are making poor cybersecurity decisions by including our personal details in passwords.

In this article, I’ll explore the most common password mistakes people are making, according to ExpressVPN’s findings, as well as some other tips provided by the firm’s cybersecurity experts.

9 Most Common Personal Details in Passwords According to the Survey

Including personal details isn’t the only mistake you can make with a password, but it definitely is a common one.

According to the survey, the most common personal detail included in a password is a date of birth. That’s followed closely by other easily identifiable things such as first and last names.

The trouble with this, of course, is that an identity thief can easily compile this type of information on you and put it to use as they attempt to crack the code on your passwords.

And while it may not be such a big deal if they get the password for your favorite online message board, it could be life-changing — in a bad way — if they’re able to figure out a password to your banking, investing, Social Security or other pertinent personal financial accounts.

Here’s a look at the top nine personal details survey takers were using in their passwords.

RankingPersonal DetailPasswords Containing These Details
1Date of birth43.9%
2Pet’s name43.8%
3First name42.3%
4Last name40%
5Child’s name37.5%
6Phone number32.2%
7Middle name31.6%
8Social Security number30.3%
9Ex-partner’s name26.1%
Survey statistics provided by ExpressVPN

That’s Not All! We’re Also Making These Password Mistakes

Remember when I said personal details aren’t the only problem? The survey unveiled some more common missteps that people make in efforts to secure their personal information.

ExpressVPN provided these troubling stats:

  • Duplicate passwords: The average person uses the same password for six websites and/or platforms.
  • “Easy” passwords: 43% of people say their loved ones would likely be able to guess their online passwords.

Duplicate passwords may make your life easier because you can remember your login information for several things at once, but it could create a real headache if a thief cracks your code. They’ll be able to access all of your accounts that share that login information.

If you need help managing a growing list of passwords, you may want to seek the help of a password manager.

And while it’s probably a good idea to keep your loved ones in the loop on your personal information in case something bad should happen, making your password so easy that they could guess it is probably not the correct route. If they can guess it, a hacker with extensive information about you might be able to use software to guess it, too.

3 Keys to Stronger Passwords

Now that ExpressVPN has us all worried about the safety of our existing passwords, you’re probably wondering how to best create a new-and-improved one to keep your login credentials safe.

Team Clark has some tips for creating a safe password and keeping it secure.

The cybersecurity experts at ExpressVPN stressed three keys to remember while strengthening your passwords: length, randomness and uniqueness.

Here’s why those are important.

  • The longer, the better: While eight characters is usually the minimum for an online password, you’ll do well to push yourself beyond the minimum. Each additional character makes a password harder to crack. The suggested minimum length is 12-15 characters.
  • Embrace randomness: The data above makes it clear that most of us could use some creativity when it comes to passwords, at a minimum. But the advice from ExpressVPN indicates that random is even better. This can be a string of random letters, numbers and symbols. This type of password is easy to make but almost impossible to remember. That’s where a password manager comes into play.
  • Be one-and-done with your passwords: It’d be nice if we could just set the same password for all of our online accounts, but you really should have a unique one for every account. ExpressVPN’s experts say: “If you repeat passwords or follow a formulaic pattern, in the event that someone finds out one of your passwords, they could use it to try to hack your other accounts, too.”

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