The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has advised people to use random words for passwords instead of pet names, ahead of National Pet Day – 11 April.
British cyber experts revealed that 15% of UK citizens use their pet’s name as a password to protect their online accounts.
The cross-government Cyber Aware campaign has recommended following the best practice by making up passwords using any three random words and saving them to an internet browser.
Results of an independent NCSC poll were released ahead of National Pet Day on 11 April. NCSC is a part of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
One of the things uncovered about UK passwords in the NCSC survey was that they are often made up of easily predictable words. About 15% used pet’s names, 14% used family members’ names, 13% used the name of a significant date, while 6% used their favourite sports team. Another 6% of the UK confessed to using the word ‘password’ as part of their password or all of it.
With such easily guessable passwords, millions of accounts were potentially at risk of being effortlessly breached by cyber criminals through trial-and-error techniques of common codes.
NCSC Policy and Communications director Nicola Hudson said: “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. I would urge everybody to visit cyberaware.gov.uk and follow our guidance on setting secure passwords which recommends using passwords made up of three random words. You can even use our Cyber Action Plan tool to generate tailored, free of charge advice to improve your security against online attacks.”
Expert hackers can crack predictable passwords, such as common pet names, easily and force their way into people’s accounts.
The Cyber Aware campaign recommends the following best password practices for organisations and individuals – Using a separate, strong password for emails, as opposed to other accounts, creating difficult to hack passwords using three random words, desisting from using words, such as pet’s name, which can be easily guessed, and saving passwords into the web browser to help protect against fake websites.
The NCSC has also published advice and guidance to help individuals deal with suspicious calls, texts and emails, along with secure online shopping.