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MS honeypot research sheds light on brute-force hacks

An idiot's guide to stronger passwords

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Microsoft's honeypot-based research has highlighted common password mistakes, as well as shedding light on automated hacking techniques.

Attack data collected from an FTP-server honeypot revealed that most attacks attempted to log into administrator accounts (Administrator and the French equivalent Administrateur were by far the two most commonly attacked userIDs) using dictionary-based attacks.

Many of these brute force attacks were reckoned to originate from bot networks of compromised Windows PCs.

The most common attempted passwords in brute force attacks were (in descending order) password, 123456, #!comment:, changeme and Fuckyou. From the exercise, which lasted a year, Microsoft extrapolated general password advice for internet accounts that's just as applicable to consumers as sys-admins.

Security researchers at Microsoft recommended the use of hard to guess passwords featuring letters, numbers and symbols while noting "there are passwords in dictionaries that are even using special characters (for example #!comment: ), not only numbers and letters".

Web users would therefore be wise to choose a password featuring a combination of upper and lower case letters. Choosing longer passwords is also helpful, a blog entry on the research on Microsoft's Malware Protection Centre blog concludes.

A password-checking tool developed by Microsoft (here) allows users to check on the strength of the passwords they pick. ®

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