The Most Common Passwords From the Yahoo Mail Leak

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 14 2012 7:45 PM

The Most Common Passwords From the Yahoo Mail Leak

Among the most common passwords from the Yahoo Mail leak: "monkey."
Among the most common passwords from the Yahoo Mail leak: "monkey."

Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday, we learned that about 400,000 Yahoo Mail passwords were apparently leaked. Another annoying bit of news for those who struggle to come up with new secret codes (even though Slate’s Farhad Manjoo has offered up a foolproof system). But it has given us another look into the psychology of password creation.

Both Swedish security expert Anders Nilsson and Declan McCullagh of CNET ran the numbers on the leaked passwords. Their results differ very slightly in a few places, but mostly match up. “abcdef,” strings of keyboard letters like “qwerty,” and ascending numerals were common. More interesting are the most frequently used “base words,” according to Nilsson:

password
welcome
qwerty
monkey
jesus
love
money
freedom
ninja
writer
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The overall top 10 also include “sunshine” and “princess.” (We love freedom, monkeys, sunshine, and ninjas—yes, that sounds like the Internet.) Among the top-used first names, according to McCullagh’s list, are michael, jordan, and michelle (case sensitive). Nilsson also indicates that of passwords that end in a number 0-9, 1 is, not surprisingly, the most popular. When a number is required, it’s so tempting to just move your left pinky to tack on a 1. But 5, which came in last, may be the safer choice.

 “monkey” also shows up (along with “qwerty,” “password,” and the other gimmes) among the common passwords from the 2010 Gawker hack. Makes sense—who doesn’t love a monkey? But the Gawker list has a slightly darker edge to it than the Yahoo one: “trustno1” edges out “princess” and “sunshine."

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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