In November 2016, a study of user passwords exposed by a Yahoo data breach revealed that "123456" was the most common password, followed closely by "password" at number two. A more recent report on the most commonly used passwords revealed that "123456" was still number one, followed by the 'more complex' "123456789".
These reports highlight ongoing problems associated with conventional password policies, which tend to promote the use of complicated passwords that are harder for attackers to discover, but which also place greater burdens on users. This approach may therefore be counterproductive, leading users to opt for simple password strategies, which will also be easy for attackers to guess or brute force. In many cases, imposing technical controls such as blacklisting the most common passwords is a far more effective measure.
The NCSC offers guidance on password best practice. We have also recently published guidance arguing against the practice of stopping passwords being pasted, which outlines why this approach is counterproductive.
Mobile forensics company hacked
The Israeli mobile forensics company, Cellebrite, reports that it has become the latest in a long line of companies to have its data hacked and published online. Cellebrite is a major supplier of forensic tools to law enforcement and other security organisations worldwide. Cellebrite states that it experienced 'unauthorised access to an external web server' and that it is known the information accessed includes 'basic contact information' and 'hashed passwords'. The company advises users to change their passwords as a precaution.
The company's investigation is ongoing. Without commenting on the specifics of this case, the compromise highlights the broader issue that companies must ensure that they protect themselves and customers in a way commensurate to the threat that they face and the sensitivity of the data that they hold. Reporting data breaches is to be strongly encouraged, enabling those affected to take appropriate action, such as changing passwords.