What your password says about you -- By Megan Lane Back   Home  

Picking a password is a split-second decision for some computer users, while others ponder long and hard to come up with a suitable log-on.

Yet chances are, no matter how long you take to choose a password, your secret sign-on may be easier to crack than you think.

Many choose their own, or a loved one's, nickname

According to a new report, most computer users take inspiration from their personal life.

About a quarter of those surveyed use their own name or nickname, while one-third pick a favourite star or football team.

So that guy who slopes about the office in his Arsenal scarf, blathering away about the team's latest bid for pitch glory, may well have a password such as "g-u-n-n-e-r" or "s-e-a-m-a-n".

The poll found four distinct categories of computer users when it came to picking passwords.

Almost half of those surveyed - 48% - fell into the family category, choosing names, nicknames or birthdates of those special to them.

Psychologist Professor Helen Petrie says: "The family users appear to be people who are not particularly computer-literate but who have incorporated occasional computer use into their everyday lives."

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Thirty-two percent - the fan category - pick film, sports or cartoon stars for their password. Top choices include David Beckham, Madonna, Homer Simpson and George Clooney.

Another 11% start the day by tapping in "s-t-u-d" or "s-e-x-y" or similarly saucy moniker they most likely will never enjoy - these are the fantasists.

The smallest group are the cryptics - typically the most computer literate of those surveyed - who take a leaf from the "for your eyes only" school of thought.

In an attempt to confuse and confound, these security conscious individuals pick obscure passwords that mix letters, numbers and punctuation.

"My password? Easy - it's l-o-v-e-g-o-d"

The findings came from a survey of 1,200 people from 30 UK companies by the domain name registry, CentralNic.

A similar survey last year, commissioned by Visa, found that 67% of passwords chosen to protect information were easy-to-guess names or numbers.

Stephen Dyer, chairman of CentralNic, says most people subconsciously choose a password that they hope will sum up the essence of their being.

"This makes it potentially very simple indeed for anyone to access their computer or secure internet sites."

So if passwords are indeed a modern-day personality test, this proves at least one trait - that most people are more transparent than they might care to think.

And if anyone should wonder, goKiWi is no longer my password. I've just changed it.

This article was published in BBC, by BBC News Online's Megan Lane (password: goKiWi).