The computer password is an outdated idea

By on May 26, 2014

From Heartbleed to eBay being hacked, cyber security is, well, pretty insecure at the moment. So we weren’t entirely surprised to hear that Fernando Corbató, the inventor of the computer password in the 1960s, thinks the internet means passwords have “become kind of a nightmare”.

“I don’t think anybody can possibly remember all the passwords that are issued or set up,” the retired MIT computer science professor told the Wall Street Journal. “Either you maintain a crib sheet, a mild no-no, or you use some sort of program as a password manager. Either one is a nuisance.”

“I have to confess, I used to use a crib sheet. I don’t think I’m guarding any great secrets” he says, adding that he had had “probably 150 passwords over the years”.

Corbató said the first password thief-cum-hacker was MIT researcher Allan Scherr now 73, who nicked other people’s to get around the four hour time-limit for using computers. “What he did was sometimes called hacking – it was meant to show how clever you were rather than how malicious you were,” Corbató says.

Scherr told the WSJ he had indeed swiped passwords and, when informed he is the first known person to have done so, replied, “That’s really something to be famous for.” That’s the spirit.

If you don’t want to fall victim to a modern-day Scherr, here are the top ten most common passwords (avoid using them!):

  1. 1. 123456
  2. 2. password
  3. 3. 12345678
  4. 4. qwerty
  5. 5. abc123
  6. 6. 123456789
  7. 7. 111111
  8. 8. 1234567
  9. 9. iloveyou
  10. 10. adobe123

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