Privacy experts have been warning us for years not to use personal information in passwords, but we all know it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks.
A survey released Thursday by digital safety platform Aura found 39 percent of pet owners in the U.S. have “used their pet’s name as part of their password for an online account.” The survey, which is part of a new public safety awareness campaign geared towards families, was conducted by The Harris Poll comprised of 2,082 people aged 18 years or older. Of the 35 to 44 year-olds, this stat increases to 50 percent. As part of the campaign, Aura has appointed famous “Spokespets” to serve as ambassadors for promoting safe cybersecurity practices.
It may be tempting, but using your pet’s name as a password is extremely risky. Why? Because information about our pets is often easy to find online. According to the survey, of those who used their pet’s names in passwords:
59% have posted a photo of their pet to social media
48% have posted their pet’s name on social media
36% of those who have ever posted their pet’s name on social media have 500 or more followers on their social accounts
“People tend to create passwords that are both meaningful and easy to memorize for use across various platforms,” said Kelly Merryman, president & COO of Aura. “However, simplicity and ease are two descriptors that should never be used regarding your passwords.”
In other words, posting about your pet tells potential hackers two things: That you have a pet and that you care about it, which is low-hanging fruit for hackers trying to guess your password. So unless you want start publicly pretending that you despise your pet, it’s better to just change your password.
To keep your accounts safe, Mashable Senior Reporter and privacy expert Jack Morse recommends getting a password manager, turning on multi-factor authentication, even lying in your security questions.