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News

Careless revelations of pets names leads to increase in password cracking

Sophos : 14 May, 2009  (Technical Article)
Sophos is warning Twitter users not to wantonly bandy around the names of their pets after discovering the use of this information by crackers to answer e-mail password secret questions.
IT security and control firm Sophos is advising Twitter users not to participate in a major trend whereby users Tweet their 'porn star names' - typically formed by posting the name of a first pet and the name of the first street a user lived on.

Sophos warns that, by doing so, thousands of people are potentially making life easy for identity thieves eager to mine information from the micro-blogging website. The problem with publically sharing such information is that many sites (such as web email providers) choose questions like 'what was the name of your first pet?' as security questions which are used to reset passwords.

'In the past, Sarah Palin, Paris Hilton and Salma Hayek have all had their private email accounts compromised by hackers guessing their secret answers,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. 'People who freely share personal information online are leaving themselves open to these kinds of attacks. What's more, with a recent Sophos poll revealing that a third of computer users are using the same log-in information across all their online accounts - computer users could quickly find that they are putting more at risk than they realise.'

In addition to not sharing personal information online, Sophos advises computer users to provide 'secret answers' for password reset questions that are memorable and hard for others to guess, rather than accurate. Users should also avoid the use of dictionary words as passwords to further reduce the risk of ID fraud.
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