PIN 1234

1234 is the most common PIN used in banking.

A new study of 1100 banking customers found that 1234 and birth dates make up a large percentage of PINS. This means if your wallet is stolen, a thief can find your birth date from your license or other ID, take your ATM card and guess your PIN. And it will work for 1 in 18 stolen wallets (or 1 in 11 for some banks). They’re good odds for thieves.

The study suggests that banks issue a random PIN instead of letting you set one yourself. I think it’s a good idea. Here’s the full document.

Security Questions

Have a look at the following screenshot and try to guess what’s wrong with it?

preferred internet password


This screenshot was captured from the US National Archives’ signup page (click here then click on New User). It asks for a challenge question and challenge answer, in case you forget your password. The problem here is one of the questions, “What is your preferred internet password?“.

Why would you give someone this information?

Challenge questions and answers are a way to recover lost passwords. Unfortunately this information is often not encrypted – it’s less secure. So whatever you set for your challenge question and answer is sometimes vulnerable to hacking. Also, the questions are often things that other people can easily find out about you, like your pet’s name. This is why I don’t like them.


Facebook Security Guide

Facebook’s security and privacy have never been perfect but they’re now starting to take it more seriously. Maybe some strong competition from Google+ has something to do with it.

Facebook have published a security guide and it’s quite good. It covers topics like recognising scams, recognising hacked accounts and how to use SSL connections. All good stuff! For example,

The common scams offer prizes like free  virtual objects. Other lures claim that your account has been suspended and provide a link for you to remedy the problem.

If you use Facebook at all I recommend reading through the guide. I also strongly suggest you print it out and lend it to your friends and family – people who might not be able to do their own research on security.

The more people understand security on Facebook the better it will be for everyone. Click here for A Guide to Facebook Security.


Most Common iPhone Passcodes

Daniel Amitay has been able to collect a sample of over 200,000 passcodes used to lock an iPhone. The most common ones were:

  1. 1234
  2. 0000
  3. 2580 (a vertical row)
  4. 1111
  5. 5555
  6. 5683 (spells LOVE)
  7. 0852 (a vertical row)
  8. 2222
  9. 1212
  10. 1998

This list represents 15% of all PINS (that’s too high). Years starting with 199 were also found to be common. And PINS starting with 1 are also very common.

The information here is relevant to other devices as well, basically anything that uses a 4 digit PIN typed into a keypad.

If you use any of these codes to lock something you consider important you should change it now.


Facebook Password Reset (Virus)

I received an email that claims to be from Facebook (it’s a forged email). The email is designed to trick people into opening the attachment. Here’s what the it says,

Hey [name removed],

Because of the measures taken to provide safety to our clients, your password has been changed. You can find your new password in attached document.

The Facebook Team

There’s another version some people have received that is similar but has a different introduction and sign off,

Dear user of facebook,

Because of the measures taken to provide safety to our clients, your password has been changed. You can find your new password in attached document.

Your Facebook

Both of these emails come with a virus attached. And neither of these emails were actually sent from Facebook. In fact, Facebook had absolutely nothing to do with it, the scammers just mention the word to encourage people to open the attachment.

So as always, be suspicious of unsolicited emails, and be suspicious of attachments you didn’t ask for.

Passwords Compromised on JIRA, Bugzilla & Confluence

If you are a user of the Apache hosted JIRA, Bugzilla, or Confluence, a hashed copy of your password has been compromised. There was a targeted attack on these systems on the 9th April 2010.

These are services used by developers, most “normal” people would not have accounts on these services. If you do use these services please read the full incident report here.

Facebook Un Named App

Here’s a combined hoax and malware. Let’s start from the beginning.

People have been posting notes on Facebook about something called “un named app”. It tells you to remove something from Facebook. It’s a hoax. Don’t believe what it says, don’t follow the instructions, and don’t pass it on.

Below are some quotes of the hoax:

ALERT >>>>> Has your facebook been running slow lately? Go to “Settings” and select “application settings”, change the dropdown box to “added to profile”. If you see one in there called “un named app” delete it… It’s an internal spybot. Pass it on

this is real.. i checked and found this app and deleted it… hopefully, my facebook will run better now.

Cannot believe how much quicker mine is running after doing this….

I don’t have this app on my Facebook account but if you do, don’t worry. It’s a normal part of Facebook and you shouldn’t delete it.

Now the second part of this hoax is a real trojan. If you go to Google and search for “facebook unnamed app” you’ll see quite a few results. Some of these results are fake antivirus programs.

A fake antivirus program is actually a trojan. It pretends to scan your PC and quietly installs malware in the background. It goes under the name of Security Tool, it has a fancy detection screen and everything. But it’s definitely bad.

The rule of thumb is that if a web page tells you that your PC might be infected, don’t trust it. Go and get your own antivirus program, not something that pops up on your screen (see here for a good free antivirus program).

There’s a lot to learn here. Basically, be careful who you trust. These days scammers have to trick you into installing malware and they’re good at it (it’s called social engineering).

Common Passwords

Security companies sometimes get to analyse real people’s passwords and create interesting reports. Imperva has just done that, analysing 32 million passwords used on the site (which was recently hacked).

Below is a summary of their findings. Why is this important to you? Because it means that statistically, you probably have a weak password that can be guessed.

  • 41% of passwords only use lower case letters (weak)
  • 15% of passwords only user numerals (even weaker)
  • Nearly 50% of people used names, slang words, dictionary words or trivial words as their passwords. These can be guessed in seconds by a “brute force” program.

The ten most common passwords were:

  1. 123456
  2. 12345
  3. 123456789
  4. Password
  5. iloveyou
  6. princess
  7. rockyou
  8. 1234567
  9. 12345678
  10. abc123

If you use any of these as your password then change it now, it’s too easy to guess, especially now that everyone can see this list.

For tips on how to choose a good password read our previous article. And here are some tips on testing how good your password is.

Imperva’s complete report is here. It’s full of interesting technical details on what they found and what the risks are.


Internet Explorer 6 is still used in many large organisations. It’s because large organisations invest heavily in technology then expect to keep using it for many years to increase their returns on investment. Usually their internal programs won’t work on newer browsers, and it’s a major task to upgrade them.

But Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) is quite old and very vulnerable to being hacked. It’s so vulnerable that it’s the main (technical) cause of the recent hack attack by China against Google (read here). In short, it seems that the Chinese government (or agents working on their behalf) hacked certain people’s Google accounts. They were able to do this because these people weren’t using the latest version of Internet Explorer.

So any organisation that refuses to upgrade to the latest version of Internet Explorer is also at risk.

Microsoft have made an official statement that IE6 is vulnerable and they want everyone to upgrade to the latest version.

Update: The Australian Government has also asked people to stop using IE6.

Update 2: Microsoft has made a patch available to all IE6 users to fix the problem. Download it from here.