The password on your mobile device isn’t just to keep your curious significant other from snooping. The number can make all the difference when protecting yourself from criminals.
“Just think about the information you have stored on your phone and what would happen if that information came into the wrong hands,” says Patrik Runald, senior manager of security research at Websense. “Your emails, your contacts, your calendar, your notes… You might have Twitter and Facebook set to auto-login and now the thief can post public messages in your name.”
iPhones, smartphones, and any mobile device that allows you to enter a pin for that matter are vulnerable. And as it turns out, many users aren’t careful enough.
Daniel Amitay, a 20-year-old economics student at New York University, uncovered the most common iPhone passcodes using an application he created called Big Brother Camera Security. He looked at 204,508 codes and found that nearly one out of 10 of the numercal passcodes users choose to lock their iPhones is one of the five common four-digit combinations.
The top five are: 1234, 0000, 2580 (the center column of the keypad), 1111, and 5555. Sixth on the list is 5683, which spells “love” on your phone’s keypad. Number combinations 0852 (going up the center column), 2222, 1212 and 1998 were also in the top 10 of Amitay’s findings.
And some of you thought your passcodes were so clever… The idea of making your pin easy to remember may just be your downfall.
“Don’t pick a simple sequence or repetition,” says John Gable, director at Check Point Software, makers of ZoneAlarm consumer security products. He also urges not to pick a number someone can easily guess, like your birthdate, or a “visual” code, like the four corners of a keypad. Instead, pick something truly random, such as a short word you can remember that someone else can’t guess. Simply use your keypad’s corresponding numbers to spell it out.
Although Gable says Amitay’s conclusion isn’t exactly consistent with ZoneAlarm’s internal studies, they do agree about the word “love.” It’s one of the most popular passwords used, so pick something else.
If you lose your phone, you can also take matters into your own hands. Runald suggests signing up for Find My iPhone, a free app provided by Apple that lets users find lost phones and remotely wipe out all of the content on it so your information won’t get into the wrong hands.
And oh - if you don’t have a passcode on your mobile device at all, maybe it’s time that you create one.