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You'd think after all the articles written about security of passwords and concerns about computer hacking, not only here in the flatlands but at the highest security levels of our nation, people would be smarter about their passwords.

But, sadly, such is not the case. In a recent article in PC World, author Raphael wrote:

The data-diving crew from The Wall Street Journal analyzed some of the hacked Gawker data in order to find trends in people's password selections. They looked at a sample of 188,279 passwords that was decrypted and made public.

Among the most common passwords they found in the list:

  • "123456." This was actually the most popular password of all. As far as I can tell, this indicates one of two things: (a) Lots of people are careless about security; (b) Lots of Gawker accounts belong to Elmo.

  • "password." The second most popular password in the list. Evidently, some folks interpret the "Password" prompt as a CAPTCHA field.

  • "lifehack." Did someone order an extra-large helping of irony?

  • "qwerty." When in doubt, just run your fingers across the keyboard.

  • "monkey." One of the more curious items in Gawker's password database. I blame Peter Gabriel.

  • "letmein." When you think about it, it really is quite impressive: After all these years, this computing classic is still in style.

  • "trustno1." Right. Especially people who use passwords like "trustno1."

  • "passw0rd." Oh, do you see what they did there? It's like "password," but not. Good one.

  • "cheese." Mmm...cheese. What were we talking about, again?

  • Ah, yes -- passwords. Perhaps the most surprising twist in all of this is that Gawker's staff didn't do much better. According to Forbes, 15 Gawker staffers had passwords consisting of common words (or "slight variations thereof"). One staff member reportedly used his own name followed by the number "1."

    If you aren't sure why any of these scenarios are troubling, please smack yourself in the face (gently -- we don't need any lawsuits here). Then go read up on basic password hygiene, or just grab a utility like LastPass, named one of PCWorld's "Best Products of 2009." It'll generate complex passwords for you and store them securely in the cloud.

    Securely in the cloud, that is, until someone figures out how to hack it. No, thanks. I'll keep a small notebook in a secure place with a list of basic passwords and the algorithm I use to generate new ones.

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