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Nearly a quarter of people (23 per cent) polled in a survey by Symantec use their browser to keep tabs on their passwords.

A survey of 400 surfers by Symantec also found that 60 per cent fail to change their passwords regularly. Further violating the 'passwords should be treated like toothbrushes' maxim (changed frequently and not shared), the pollsters also found that a quarter of people have given their passwords to their spouse, while one in 10 people have given their password to a ‘friend’.

Password choices were also lamentably bad. Twelve of the respondents admitted they used the phrase 'password' as their, err, password while one in ten used a pet's name. The name of a pet might easily be obtained by browsing on an intended target's social networking profile.

Eight per cent of the 400 respondents said they used the same password on all their online sites, a shortcoming that means a compromise of one low-sensitivity account hands over access to a victim's more sensitive webmail and online banking accounts. The survey respondents came from readers of Symantec's Security Response blog, who might be expected to be more security savvy than the general net population, though the survey shows many of them making the same basic errors that crop up time and again in password security surveys.

Symantec has put together its findings together with a list of suggestions for picking better passwords, a basic but woefully overlooked security precaution, in a blog post here.

The net security firm advised computer users to pick a mix of numbers, letters, punctuation, and symbols when picking passwords. This may be derived from taking a memorable phrase and altering it by replacing characters with symbols, for example. Surfers should avoid personal information, repetition and sequences in passwords, Symantec further recommends. ®

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