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The importance of secure passwords that are replaced regularly

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March 2, 2016

Fresh new research takes a different perspective on the passwords hackers generally use while scanning the whole internet rather than the weak login credentials users often choose on their computers or devices.

Security firm Rapid7’s results come from a year’s worth of opportunistic credential-scanning data collected from Heisenberg, the MetaSploit firm’s public-facing network of so-called honeypots.

Logs from these honeypots provide an insight into what opportunistic scanners are using in order to test and likely compromise web-connected point-of-sale (PoS) systems, kiosks, and compromised desktop PCs which offer the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) service for remote management.

The study, which focused on retail terminals pulled out statistics on the frequency and source of opportunistic attacks, as well as the top attempted passwords and usernames.

The overlap between these chosen credentials and published password dumps collected from breach data was also highlighted.

Instead of old favourites such as “12345” and “password” on the user side, credentials such as “x”, “St@rt123”, “P@ssw0rd” and “admin” appeared in the top ten of password guessing attempts as well.

Usernames of “administrator”, “admin” and “pos” were among the most frequently guessed by hackers. China was the most common source of login attempts (almost 40 percent) followed by the U.S. (24.9 percent) and, way back, by South Korea (6 percent), in third pace.

Surprisingly, Russia didn’t even figure in the top ten, possibly because all the would-be PoS hackers in that country used proxies located elsewhere. Then again, it's hard to figure out accurately.

Rapid7's findings reveal that the majority of passwords attempted to hack are very simple, implying a belief by hackers in the widespread use of factory-set defaults and passwords chosen out of convenience (123456 or god) instead of security necessity.

Additionally, cybercrooks who unwittingly took part in the study are essentially opportunistic thieves who continuously scan the internet for low-hanging fruit. Specifically, systems with default login credentials which they can can subsequently hack easily.

Tod Beardsley, security research manager at Rapid7 said-- "The research from Rapid7 takes a look at the state of credential security with a focus on point of sale (PoS) systems reachable from the internet, but instead on focusing on particular brands, models, or customers, it analyses the passwords used today by criminal attackers all over the world.”

“Research that combines active scanning and passive collection techniques is incredibly useful for spot checking the state of cyber hygiene, and we hope to continue this sort of research to help identify where enterprises and small businesses are tip-toewing when it comes to their online footprint,” he added.

Source: Rapid7 Internet Security.

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