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A new poll from digital security firm Aura has found that upwards of one in three pet parents in the US have used their pet’s name as their password—and it’s a surprisingly dangerous move for us and our furry friends.
We break down the risks of relying on our best four-legged buddies for digital security, take a look at how digital predators can use the information, and offer some easy solutions for creating and keeping track of passwords.
Why Your Pet’s Name as a Password Is a High Security Risk
Creating and remembering a variety of passwords for all our online accounts is a pain. That’s why it’s so tempting to choose something that’s short, sweet, and unforgettable—something that makes us happy. Like our pet’s name.
If that’s you, you’re not alone. A new survey from Aura reveals that 39% of American pet parents have used a pet’s name as part of a password. Among 35- to 44-year-olds, that figure is even higher, with one in two pet parents drawing password inspiration from a furry friend.
It’s understandable. After all, being online in the digital age requires an unprecedented number of passwords.
But here’s what else the poll found—and what makes using our pets’ names so risky: 50% of pet parents share photos of their pet on social media, and 37% of us have posted our pet’s name. For two thirds of us, that information went out to 500+ followers.
You can probably see where this is going. Anyone who can see our social media profiles now has the password to one or maybe several of our digital accounts—especially if we’re in the 37% of Americans who use the same password for all or most of our online accounts or the third of Americans who use the same password for personal and work accounts.
Yes, we might say, but they don’t know it’s my password.
The trouble is that they do—or at least, they know it’s a reasonable guess. A prospective hacker is familiar with the statistics, and pet names are right up there with birthdays and anniversaries as top password choices. With a third of American pet parents using a pet’s name as part of a password, a hacker has a pretty good place to start.
Depending on what account hackers break into, they may be able to use that account to gain control over your other important accounts and access your:
- personal and professional emails
- social media accounts
- bank and credit card accounts
- investment and stock accounts
- online shopping accounts
- personal identification information
- home and work address
How Can a Hacker Use Our Pets’ Names To Steal Information?
So how would it work? Here’s an example: If a hacker knows 1) your email address and 2) that you have an online account with a particular company, they can use “password spraying” to test known passwords (like “password123” and “adsf”) to see if any work with that particular email address.
If your password is a fact about yourself that a hacker or scammer can easily find, it’s pretty easy for them to use an automated bot to try variations of your pet’s name with different numbers (so using “Fido123” won’t slow them up much).
If a match is found, the hacker can then use the valid credentials to try taking over the account. Aura cites Akamai, a cybersecurity firm that reports at least 280 million malicious login attempts per day, including 300,000 attempted logins per hour from a single botnet.
Then there’s the fact a lot of brands use security questions about our pets to access a locked account (think “what was your first pet’s name?”). If you’ve posted your pet’s name on social media and are using that as an answer to your security question, your information is now even more vulnerable.
The consequences aren’t fun to consider either: If a hacker can gain access to your accounts through an insecure password, they can do significant damage to your life and finances. With even just a few pieces of personal data, like account logins and passwords, criminals can commit multiple types of ID theft, including credit card fraud, loan fraud, and tax or government benefits fraud.
The Benefits of Not Using Pets’ Names as Our Passwords
By not using our pets’ names, we protect ourselves—and our pets’ snack and toy funds—from digital threats. It’s a small thing that can make a huge difference in our online safety.
While we’re doing some pet-name password cleanup, it’s also a good idea to get rid of any other publicly available information that we’re using as passwords (kids’ names, important dates, favorite sports teams, and so on).
Stripping out any duplicate passwords is another great way to keep ourselves safe; that way, even if a hacker manages to get into one account, they won’t necessarily have access to all our accounts.
How to Create—And Remember—Complex Passwords
So what should we replace all those pet-name passwords we’re scrapping with? Ideally, we’d opt for a variety of unique, complex passwords containing multiple digits, letters, and special characters like @, #, and %.
It’s not a good idea to write them down—either digitally or on paper. But pet parents can explore a password manager tool, which manages different, complex passwords for each account a consumer has across mobile and desktop devices.
Create one super awesome complex password (with no pet names) to access the password manager itself, since that will serve as the gatekeeper for all of your other passwords, then memorize it.
And why keep security measures to a minimum? Aura’s all-in-one digital safety platform can manage your passwords and much more. Aura’s intelligent safety tools combat malware and viruses from your digital devices. Their app will alert you to suspicious activity and threats to your identity, bank accounts, online accounts, and passwords. And if you ever need help, their 24/7 US-based customer support is available.
They also love pets. As one Aura team member assured us, “Believe me, we have an entire Slack channel dedicated to our employees sharing photos of their furry friends. But leave the digital security to Aura and keep your pets out of it! With American financial losses due to cybercrime growing 68% from 2020 to 2021 to over $6.9 billion, it’s more important than ever to keep your family safe online. There are so many other ways to show love for your pets than using their names as your passwords.”
We’re in favor of anything that protects our pets’ finances—er, we mean our finances. And staying safe online is part of keeping our furry friends safe too. Think of this as just one more pet best practice, like stowing the chocolate in a cabinet or keeping up with grooming. It all falls under the heading of “safety first”—so you and your best four-legged friend can keep the good times rolling.