The 25 Most Popular Passwords of 2012

Happy New Year, it's time to change your passwords again. You can't go anywhere online without a password these days. Want to access Xbox Live through your PC? You'll need a password. Logging onto the PlayStation Store? Cough it up. Playing any online games? You know what to do. Not to mention all of your social networking, email, website, and e-commerce passwords.

The problem though, according to Chris Morris at Plugged In, is that most of us just aren't very password-creative. hacker delight in posting usernames and passwords online when they raid a database. To prove the point -- and to help us all make better password decisions -- SplashData compiles an annual list of the most common (and therefore, the worst) passwords from those listings.

The top passwords of 2012 are the same three from a year ago - "password," "123456," and "12345678." In 2012, however, there were some new additions, including "welcome, " "jesus," "ninja," and "mustang." Our favorite newcomer to the list (and yes, we're being sarcastic here), is "password1," a particularly weak attempt at pleasing providers who require a number in your password somewhere.

"At this time of year, people enjoy focusing on scary costumes, movies and decorations, but those who have been through it can tell you how terrifying it is to have your identity stolen because of a hacked password," said Morgan Slain, CEO of SplashData. "We're hoping that with more publicity about how risky it is to use weak passwords, more people will start taking simple steps to protect themselves by using stronger passwords and using different passwords for different websites."

Gamers in particular need to be vigilant in keeping their passwords strong and safe. Hackers have targeted a number of game companies in recent years, including Blizzard, Bethesda, and, most famously, Sony. Earlier this month, PlaySpan, who handles microtransactions for hundreds of online games, was breached.

If you've got any of these phrases as your password on any system — be it a gaming network, email client, or especially an online banking account -- change it. Change it fast. You're leaving yourself open for hacking that could result in the loss of everything, from hard-won Diablo III items to Microsoft Points you spent real-world money acquiring.

Here's the full 2012 list, along with how the popularity of the phrase has increased or decreased in the past year:

1. password (Unchanged)
2, 123456 (Unchanged)
3. 12345678 (Unchanged)
4. abc123 (Up 1)
5. qwerty (Down 1)
6. monkey (Unchanged)
7. letmein (Up 1)
8. dragon (Up 2)
9. 111111 (Up 3)
10. baseball (Up 1)
11. iloveyou (Up 2)
12. trustno1 (Down 3)
13. 1234567 (Down 6)
14. sunshine (Up 1)
15. master (Down 1)
16. 123123 (Up 4)
17. welcome (New)
18. shadow (Up 1)
19. ashley (Down 3)
20. football (Up 5)
21. jesus (New)
22. michael (Up 2)
23. ninja (New)
24. mustang (New)
25. password1 (New)

Keep creating the same old passwords? Here's a few tips on how to create an cryptic password:

- Use the first letter from each word in a phrase or line from a song. For example, "Hey, I just met you... And this is crazy... But here's my number... So call me maybe" could be "hijmyaticbhmnscmm." Of course, you'll be stuck singing the damn thing in your head every time you log in.

- Combine two words, such as "hungrydog" or "choppywater." For added security, separate those words with symbols or numbers, or swap numbers in place of certain letters. So instead of "hungrydog," use"hungry$d0g."

- If the site is case-sensitive, vary upper and lower case letters, as well as using numbers and symbols. ("ViDeOgAmE," for example, is much more secure than "videogame.")

- As seen in Plugged In
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Your Life Is Fully Mobile: We walk, talk and sleep with our phones, but are we more or less connected?

Just as remarkable as the power of mobility, over everything from love to learning to global development, is how fast it all happened.

Nancy Gibbs of Time points out, it is hard to think of any tool, any instrument, any object in history with which so many developed so close a relationship so quickly as we have with our phones. Not the knife or match, the pen or page. Only money comes close—always at hand, don’t leave home without it. But most of us don’t take a wallet to bed with us, don’t reach for it and check it every few minutes, and however useful money is in pursuit of fame, romance, revolution, it is inert compared with a smart phone—which can replace your wallet now anyway.

Whatever people thought the first time they held a portable phone the size of a shoe in their hands, it was nothing like where we are now, accustomed to having all knowledge at our fingertips. A typical smart phone has more computing power than Apollo 11 when it landed a man on the moon. In many parts of the world, more people have access to a mobile device than to a toilet or running water; for millions, this is the first phone they’ve ever had. In the U.S., close to 9 in 10 adults carry a mobile, leaving its marks on body, mind, spirit. There’s a smart-phone gait: the slow sidewalk weave that comes from being lost in conversation rather than looking where you’re going. Thumbs are stronger, attention shorter, temptation everywhere: we can always be, mentally, digitally, someplace other than where we are.

So how do we feel about this? To better understand attitudes about mass mobility, Time, in cooperation with Qualcomm, launched the Time Mobility Poll, a survey of close to 5,000 people of all age groups and income levels in eight countries: the U.S., the U.K., China, India, South Korea, South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil. Even the best survey can be only a snapshot in time, but this is a crisp and textured one, revealing a lot about both where we are now and where the mobile wave is taking us next.

A tool our parents could not have imagined has become a lifeline we can’t do without. Not for a day—in most cases not even for an hour. In Time’s poll, 1 in 4 people check it every 30 minutes, 1 in 5 every 10 minutes. A third of respondents admitted that being without their mobile for even short periods leaves them feeling anxious. It is a form of sustenance, that constant feed of news and notes and nonsense, to the point that twice as many people would pick their phone over their lunch if forced to choose. Three-quarters of 25-to-29-year-olds sleep with their phones.

If Americans have developed surprisingly intimate relationships with their gadgets, they are still modest compared with people in other countries. The Time Mobility Poll found that 1 in 5 Americans has asked someone on a date by text, compared with three times as many Brazilians and four times as many Chinese. Fewer than 1 in 10 married U.S. respondents admitted to using texting to coordinate adultery, vs. one-third of Indians and a majority of Chinese. It may be shocking that nearly a quarter of all U.S. respondents, including a majority of 18-to-35-year-old men, have sent a sexually provocative picture to a partner or loved one. But that trails South Africans’ 45% and Indians’ 54%. Brazilians are especially exuberant, with 64% baring and sharing all.

In most respects, overseas mobile users value their devices the same way Americans do but with a few revealing exceptions. Americans are grateful for the connection and convenience their phones provide, helping them search for a lower price, navigate a strange city, expand a customer base or track their health and finances, their family and friends. But in some ways Americans are still ambivalent; more than 9 in 10 Brazilians and Indians agreed that being constantly connected is mostly a good thing. America’s 76% was actually the lowest score.

Carve up the U.S. population into the general public vs. high-income, highly educated elites and some contrasts come into focus. Elites are more likely to say that they work longer hours and have less time to think but also that mobile has made them more efficient and productive, able to manage more, be away from the office, stay informed about the news and be a better parent. Four in 10 Americans think mobility has helped them achieve a better work-life balance, vs. three-quarters or more of Indians, Indonesians, Chinese and South Africans.

Like any romance moving from infatuation to commitment, the connection between people and their mobile devices reflects what they brought into the relationship in the first place. In countries where connection and convenience were difficult, these mobiles offer a kind of time travel, delivering in the push of a button or touch of a screen the kind of progress other countries built over decades. Which makes you wonder: Just how much smaller and smarter and faster and better might our devices be a decade from now? And how much about our lives and work and relationships is left to be completely transformed as a result? What do you think?!

- As seen in Time
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How Companies and Cops Snoop on Your Digital Life – Whether You Realize It or Not!

If someone wanted to create a global system for tracking human beings and collecting information about them, it would look a lot like the digital mobile-device network. It knows where you are, and--the more you text, tweet, shop, take pictures and navigate your surroundings using a smart phone--it knows an awful lot about what you're doing.

Which is one reason federal officials turned to Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile in early 2009 when they needed to solve the robbery of a Berlin, Conn., branch of Webster Bank. Using a loophole in a 1986 law that allows warrantless searches of stored communications, the feds ordered the carriers to provide records of phones that used a nearby cell tower on the day of the crime. The carriers turned over to the prosecutors the identities, call records and other personal information of 169 cell-phone users--including two men who were eventually sentenced to prison for the robbery. With a simple request, the feds cracked a case that might have otherwise taken years to solve. In the process, they collected information on 167 people who they had no reason to believe had committed a crime, including details like numbers dialed and times of calls that would have been protected as private on a landline.

Such cases are common. In response to a request from Representative Ed Markey, major cell carriers revealed in July, 2012 that they had received more than 1.3 million requests for cell-phone tracking data from federal, state and local law-enforcement officials in 2011. By comparison, there were 3,000 wiretap warrants issued nationwide in 2010. That revelation has added to a growing debate over how to balance the convenience and security consumers now expect from their smart phones with the privacy they traditionally have wanted to protect. Every second we enjoy their convenience, smart phones are collecting information, recording literally millions of data points every day.

The potential for good is undeniable. In recent years, the average time it takes the U.S. Marshals Service to find a fugitive has dropped from 42 days to two, according to congressional testimony from Susan Landau, a Guggenheim fellow. Cell phones have changed criminal investigation from the ground up. "There is a mobile device connected to every crime scene," says Peter Modafferi, the chief of detectives in Rockland County, New York.

But as smart phones' tracking abilities have become more sophisticated, law enforcement, phonemakers, cell carriers and software makers have come under fire for exploiting personal data without the knowledge of the average user. Much of the law protecting mobile privacy in the U.S. was written at the dawn of the cell-phone era in the 1980s, and it can vary from state to state. Companies have widely differing privacy policies. Now conservatives and liberals on Capitol Hill are pushing legislation that would set new privacy standards, limiting law-enforcement searches and restricting what kinds of information companies can collect.

Government snooping is part of the worry. But market demand is driving some of the biggest collectors of data. Mobile advertising is now a $6 billion industry, and identifying potential customers based on their personal information is the new frontier. Last year, reports showed that free and cheap apps were capable of everything from collecting location information to images a phone is seeing. One app with image-collection capabilities, Tiny Flashlight, uses a phone's camera as a flashlight and has been installed at least 50 million times on phones around the world. Tiny Flashlight's author, Bulgarian programmer Nikolay Ananiyev, tells Time that his program does not collect the images or send them to third parties.

In November 2012, news broke that a company named Carrier IQ had installed software on as many as 150 million phones that accesses users' texts, call histories, Web usage and location histories without users' knowing consent. Carrier IQ says it does not record, store or transmit the data but uses it to measure performance. In February, Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare and Instagram apps, among others, were reported to be uploading contact information from iPhones and iPads. The software makers told the blog VentureBeat that they only use the contact information when prompted by users. "No app is free," says one senior executive at a phone carrier. "You pay for them with your privacy."

Many consumers are happy to do so, and so far there hasn't been much actual damage, at least not that privacy advocates can point to. The question is where to draw the line. For instance, half of smart-phone users make banking transactions via their mobile device. The Federal Trade Commission has brought 40 enforcement cases in recent years against companies for improperly storing customers' private information.

Law enforcement is subject to some oversight. Absent an emergency, prosecutors and police must convince a judge that the cell information they are seeking from wireless companies is material to a criminal case under investigation. An unusual alliance between liberals and conservatives is pushing a bill to impose the same requirements for getting cell tracking data as those that are in place when cops want to get a warrant to search a house. Another bill would increase restrictions on what app writers can do with personal information. Cases moving through the courts may limit what law enforcement can do with GPS tracking.

Tech companies are trying to get a handle on the issue. Apple has a single customer-privacy policy. Google posts the permissions that consumers give each app to operate their phones' hardware and software, including authorization to access camera and audio feeds and pass on locations or contact info. The rush to keep up with technology will only get harder: the next surge in surveillance is text messaging, industry experts say, as companies and cops look for new ways to tap technology for their own purposes.
- As seen in Time
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