Protect yourself: easy passwords are making us vulnerable to fraud

(Photo: Jakub Krechowicz)

Most of us have forgotton a password or a pin at a highly inconvienient moment, usually when there's a queue of people waiting at the ATM, and remembering a number of different codes and which account they give access to can be tricky.  But research shows that using the same password for multiple websites is resulting in greater vulnerability to fraud.

Conducted by SplashData, the research reveals that many of us are choosing to use simple combinations – which means easy for us, but also easy for fraudsters wanting to hack our accounts.

'123456' was named as the most hacked password of 2013, beating 2012's 'password' which has now been relegated to second place.

Other oft used passwords included 'iloveyou', 'abc123', '111111' and '000000'.  Hardly difficult for a criminal to guess.

ID fraud and credit information expert Equifax is therefore urging consumers to use a range of different passwords in order to protect their identity.

"Whilst it's understandable that consumers find it difficult to remember a multitude of passwords, it's absolutely crucial that they don't revert to just one for all the services they access on the web," explains Neil Munroe, External Affairs Director.

"Despite a growing number of websites now enforcing stronger password policies, we are still seeing so many people fall victim to ID fraud with easily cracked, numerical passwords, or basic things such as birthdays and mother's maiden names."

With an increase of personal information shared through pages on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, and often unprotected and visible to the general public, it is getting easier for hackers to find out key details which could allow them to guess passwords and access private accounts.

"Fraudsters may only need as little as three items of personal information to be able to steal an individual's wouldn't take much for a fraudster to work out a birthday or family name that could be the key to a treasure trove of information," says Munroe.

"We believe vigilance has to be the priority for today's consumers as personal information becomes the currency of the internet," he concludes.