National Cyber Security Centre
Paws-word change recommended on National Pet Day
Ahead of National Pet Day, the NCSC is encouraging people to use three random words for passwords rather than the names of their pets.
- 15% of British people use their pet’s name as a password for online accounts
- Ahead of this weekend’s National Pet Day, the National Cyber Security Centre recommends using passwords made up of three random words
- In the last year, 27% of UK citizens added more than four new password-protected accounts – showing the importance of making them hard to hack
Cyber experts have urged people to follow best practice by making passwords with three random words after revealing 15% of British people use their pet’s name to protect accounts.
Results of independent polling on behalf of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, has been released ahead of National Pet Day on Sunday 11 April.
The survey of UK passwords showed they are often made up of things people can easily predict – such as their pet’s names (15%), family members’ names (14%), a significant date (13%) or their favourite sports team (6%).
6% of the UK admitted using ‘password’ as all or part of their password – meaning millions of accounts could be easily breached by criminals using trial-and-error techniques of common codes.
The cross-government Cyber Aware campaign recommends using passwords made up of three random words and saving these in an internet browser.
NCSC Director for Policy and Communications, 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.”
In a sign of how important it is to secure accounts, 27% also revealed they now have at least four more new password-protected accounts than this time last year – with 6% reporting to have added in excess of 10 new accounts in the last 12 months.
Predictable passwords can be easily cracked by hackers, who could force their way into your accounts by simply guessing common pet names.
The Cyber Aware campaign advises individuals and organisations to follow the following best password practices:
- Use a strong and separate password for your email. If a hacker gets into your email, they could reset your other account passwords and access information you have saved about yourself or your business. Your email password should be strong and different to all your other passwords.
- Create strong passwords using three random words - when you use different passwords for your important accounts, it can be hard to remember them all.
- Do not use words that can be guessed (like your pet’s name). You can include numbers and symbols if you need to. For example, “RedPantsTree4!”
- Saving your passwords in your web browser will help you manage them and can protect you against some cyber crime, such as fake websites.
The government is committed to defending the UK against cyber threats and the NCSC has published advice and guidance to support individuals, including dealing with suspicious emails, texts and calls and shopping online securely.
People should report suspicious emails and texts by forwarding to firstname.lastname@example.org and 7726 respectively. Anybody who thinks that they’ve fallen victim to a cyber crime should report this to Action Fraud (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or Police Scotland (for Scotland).
The Cyber Aware Action Plan creates a personalised list of actions based on your digital habits that will help you improve your cyber security. The 3-5 minute test, which asks a series of questions on topics like passwords and how regularly you update devices, can be found on the NCSC’s Cyber Aware website.
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