Millions of Britons use their pet’s name as a password online, despite being an easy target for hackers, according to a survey.
The National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) said 15% of the population used names of pets, 14% used the name of a family member and 13% chose a notable date.
And 6% of people still use the word “password” as part or all of their password.
The NCSC urged people to choose random words that cannot be guessed instead.
Other problematic passwords included a user-supported sports team (6%), a number string like “123456” (6%), or a favorite TV show (5%).
Some 40% of respondents said they have never used any of these easy-to-guess things as part of a password.
NCSC Director of Communications 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 insensitive cybercriminals. “
This is because a pet’s name could be cracked simply by repeatedly plugging in common animal names like Bella, Coco, Luna, or Milo – or other very common animal names.
The same logic applies to surnames and birthdays, which can also often be gleaned from social media.
“Millions of accounts could be easily hacked by criminals using trial and error techniques,” the NCSC warned.
This survey shows us once again that people still fail to protect themselves in the easiest way.
Using your pet’s or child’s name isn’t great, but the most damaging form of password convenience is using the same password on multiple sites and services.
My inbox is regularly filled with complaints from people who have had their Instagram accounts hacked or Spotify subscriptions stolen, and it’s normally always due to this password repeat weakness.
Unfortunately, businesses are constantly being hacked and if your email and password are compromised those details are shared and sold in huge databases in hacker communities.
If you use the same email and password to log into your other apps, hackers can now do that too.
So you might have a brilliant and unique password, but if it ends up on one of these database listings, criminals can unlock your entire internet life with just a few clicks.
Instead, the NCSC asks people to choose three random, unrelated words as their passwords. One example they give is “RedPantsTree”, which is unlikely to be used elsewhere online.
It also recommends adding exclamation marks or other symbols at the end if needed by a site, and saving passwords in a web browser’s password manager. This makes it easier to use different passwords for different sites.
And it also begs people to use a separate, unique, and secure password for their email, which can often be used to reset passwords for other services.
The NCSC also said last year’s lockdowns led to an increase in the number of online accounts, with 27% of people reporting having created more than four password-protected accounts.
The research involved 1,282 adults and was conducted in early March.