2021’s Most Common Passwords Are Utterly Ridiculous

The most common passwords used in 2021 have been revealed, and to call them an embarrassment would be an understatement to say the least.

According to a new report from NordPass, a service that provides a password manager program, a worrying amount of users still rely on extremely weak passwords.

The top 200 most common passwords of 2021 study, covering 50 countries, reveals that “123456” remains as the most popular password for the second year running. More than 103 million people use it for log-in purposes, even though it’d take less than a single second to crack it.

Other frequently used passwords within the top 10 list largely consist of number-based passes like “123456789,” which is utilized by 46 million individuals. The only two that don’t contain a numerical form are “qwerty,” and of course, “password.” They’re applied by 22.3 million and 20.9 million users, respectively. 

When it comes to other bad password choices, a “stunning” number of people opted to make their own names as their preferred password. Elsewhere, Ferrari and Porsche are the most popular car brands in regard to weak passwords.

Unfortunately, passwords keep getting weaker, and people still don’t maintain proper password hygiene.

While the vast majority of the top 200 most common passwords can be cracked in less than a second — or a few seconds in some cases — there are some that would take considerably longer to gain access to. “1g2w3e4r” and “gwerty123,” both used by a million people, would take three hours to crack. Interestingly, removing the “123” from “gwerty” makes it a much easier target, as it’ll only take five seconds to crack.

Rounding out the passwords in the list that’ll take between 1-3 hours to penetrate are “michelle,” “jennifer,” “myspace1,” and “zag12wsx.”

NordPass’s methodology for forming its research involved working with independent researchers who specialize in the cybersecurity incident research field. The most common password list was compiled via an evaluation of a 4TB database containing leaked passes.

“Unfortunately, passwords keep getting weaker, and people still don’t maintain proper password hygiene,” Jonas Karklys, CEO of NordPass told Lifewire. “It’s important to understand that passwords are the gateway to our digital lives, and with us spending more and more time online, it’s becoming enormously important to take better care of our cybersecurity.”

Fixing the problem

So, how does one go about adding additional layers of security that will better protect their passwords? It goes without saying that no one should use “123456” as their entry point for any account — or any of the passwords in the aforementioned report for that matter. Password managers have become commonplace and are usually a reliable resort, while two-factor authentication should also be considered as another safety measure.

When factoring in their security deficiencies, passwords, in general, are naturally the most common target for hackers. In fact, 81% of hacking-related breaches are achieved through weak or stolen passwords.

“The single most common security vulnerability today is still bad passwords.”

“Weak passwords are the entry point for the majority of attacks across enterprise and consumer accounts. There are a whopping 579 password attacks every second — that’s 18 billion every year,” Microsoft detailed in September.

Apple, meanwhile, has integrated a newer form of tech into its devices through iCloud Passkey, which effectively gets rid of passwords and offers a more secure process via Public Key Cryptography.

Apple joins both Microsoft and Google in envisioning a future for passwordless authentication. Software giant Microsoft, for one, has already seen more than 200 million users enabling passwordless login for its services.

“The single most common security vulnerability today is still bad passwords,” Jen Fitzpatrick, senior vice president of core systems at Google, stated in May. “Ultimately, we’re on a mission to create a password-free future.”

Editors’ Choice

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4 better ways to boost worker wellness than Amazon’s ridiculous ZenBooth

Corporate giant Amazon is taking heat over reports of its WorkingWell initiative, a physical and mental health programme intended to improve employee health in the retail giant’s fulfilment centres.

A leaked pamphlet, which Amazon has claimed was created in error and is not being circulated, encourages workers to invest in their own fitness and become “industrial athletes”. One aspect attracting particular attention is a plan for “AmaZen Booths”. Also called Mindful Practice Rooms, these kiosks are intended for employees to take breaks from work, experience periods of calm, and access mental health resources. Amazon deleted a social media post about the booths after being mocked on Twitter.

The details paint an unflattering picture of the company in light of its unprecedented rise in revenues, profits and stock value during the pandemic. Critics of Amazon say the company’s unparalleled financial success is on the backs of its 1.3 million employees who are subject to precarious employment contracts – issues that came to a head after an unsuccessful campaign among some US-based Amazon workers to gain trade union recognition.

Commentators are also saying that these workers experience higher than average rates of workplace injuries and are treated like “galley slaves”. In such conditions, it is argued, a wellbeing initiative is beside the point.

These programmes are gaining in popularity: COVID-19 has raised “wellness” up the agendas of corporations like never before – and not always in a good way. Many companies have introduced exercise classes, fruit and other sticking-plaster solutions rather than measures which assess risk, focus on prevention and prioritise “decent work” as a driver of both wellbeing and productivity.

Having been a judge for the Global Healthy Workplace Awards since 2014, I have run a critical eye over many corporate wellness programmes. Like other big companies, Amazon faces the challenging balance of promoting employee wellbeing without being accused of tokenism.

In trying to improve worker wellness, companies often miss the mark. Here are some things they should keep in mind:

1. Health and productivity can and must coexist

To imply that there should be a binary choice between health and productivity is facile and misleading. One of the more breathtaking things I heard from a senior executive of a large UK organisation during the pandemic was this:

Frankly, I think that job stress is a more effective driver of productivity for us than wellbeing programmes.

Far from being a niche or outdated opinion, this thinking is representative of a significant proportion of business leaders around the world. As it happens, this large organisation is also very keen to tell anyone who will listen that “employee health, safety and wellbeing is their biggest priority” – though when I checked their latest report to shareholders and prospective investors, the words “revenue” and “profits” outnumbered mentions of “safety” by a ratio of 25 to 1.

2. Lifestyle evangelism is no substitute for decent work

The former chief medical officer of UK telecoms giant BT, Dr Paul Litchfield, famously derided what he called the “fruit and pilates” approach to workplace wellbeing. He argued that no amount of healthy snacks in canteens, “step challenges” or company fun runs can compensate for jobs with impossible deadlines or targets, or the stress of reporting to a manager who is a bully.

One of the founding fathers of modern motivation theory, Frederick Herzberg, once said: “if you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do.” Wellness programmes that ignore this simple idea are unlikely to have an enduring impact.

3. Context is everything

The AmaZen Booths are no more than a contemporary take on many successful community and workplace mental health programmes such as the “Men’s Shed” movement, which originated among working men in Australia in the 1990s. It targeted older men, who can often find being open about mental health very difficult, by offering resources and support which encouraged reflection and “help-seeking”.

Similar booths have been used successfully by some UK employers. Electricity supplier E.ON created a “Head Shed” to encourage employees to find out more about mental wellbeing, for instance.

The real test of Amazon’s version is whether it is part of a genuinely coherent programme of initiatives which assess and reduce exposure to risk, and convince employees that the company really is prioritising their wellbeing over the long term. Having a well-branded initiative on wellbeing is never enough by itself, especially if many employees’ everyday experience of work is that it is intense, strenuous and toxic.

4. Employers: beware of ‘fool’s gold’

Employers need to be more critical consumers of wellbeing “miracle cures” offered by commercial providers. I have seen too many employers divert resources from unglamorous but evidence-based interventions (like having access to a good occupational health nurse) towards those meant to “showcase” their commitment to health and wellbeing.

Used by themselves, laughter coaches and head massages are really no more than perks, with little or no direct impact on health or productivity. Even very popular initiatives such as Mental Health First Aid have very little strong evidence of any long-term benefit.

Sadly, in the drive for more productivity, the health and wellbeing of employees can be among the first casualties. Reports of Amazon’s WorkingWell programme have, so far, not been flattering. Its challenge – like many other corporations – is to sweep aside the cynicism and demonstrate that its efforts will have tangible benefits for all of its employees and are not just PR spin.

This article by Stephen Bevan, Head of HR Research Development, Institute for Employment Studies, Lancaster University is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Fortnite made a truly ridiculous amount of money in its first two years

Throughout Fortnite‘s history, we’ve known that the game has been a major money maker for Epic Games without knowing much in the way of specifics. Epic, after all, is a private company, so it typically doesn’t disclose how much it or its games are making publicly. With Epic embroiled in a court battle with Apple at the moment, we’re learning details that were previously kept under wraps, including how much money Fortnite pulled in during its meteoric rise to success.

As it turns out, Fortnite made a ton of money in its first two years of availability. According to once-confidential financial results for 2018 and 2019 that have now been made public because of Epic’s legal dispute with Apple (as published by The Verge), Fortnite pulled in a whopping $9 billion in revenue in its first two years after launch.

More specifically, Fortnite made $5.477 billion in 2018 and $3.709 billion in 2019 for a grand total of $9.186 billion over those two years. Keep in mind that this revenue, which means we’re not sure how much money the game made after expenses were taken into account. Still, it’s a staggering number that shows us just how successful the free-to-play battle royale game was in 2018 and 2019.

To put that in perspective, Epic says that it made $108 million in revenue from other games in same period of time, noting that the other revenue comes primarily from Rocket League and Battle Breakers. Epic purchased Rocket League developer Psyonix in 2019, so that’s probably where most of that additional revenue is coming from.

So, if you were ever wondering where Epic got the money it needed to launch a game store and pay for a bunch of PC exclusives, your answer is undoubtedly Fortnite and the billions it pulled in during its first two years of availability. We’ll have more details about Epic and Apple’s legal battle as it rages on, so stay tuned for more.

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A sealed copy of Super Mario Bros just sold for a truly ridiculous amount

When it comes to classic games, it’s hard to beat Super Mario Bros. The first game in what is certainly one of the most iconic gaming franchises of all time, Super Mario Bros. has stood the test of time and is still the favorite of speedrunners and retro gaming enthusiasts alike. It also is apparently a favorite of retro collectors, as a sealed copy of the game in mint condition recently sold at auction for a ridiculous amount of money.

If you thought the sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 that sold at auction in November for $156,000 was something, then you might want to sit down, because Heritage Auctions has announced that the sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. you see pictured above just sold for $660,000. That is a huge sum of money, and it’s enough to make this the most expensive video game ever sold.

What makes this copy of Super Mario Bros. so special? For starters, the game has a Wata 9.6 A+ rating, which is exceedingly rare for a game so old. On its website, Heritage also explains that this is the oldest copy of Super Mario Bros. that has ever passed through its doors. The copy even has its cardboard hangtab intact, and Heritage notes that it’s missing the trademark icon from the “Nintendo Entertainment System” text on the box, which means that it’s from an early production run of the game.

With all those qualities added up, it seems that we’ve got the perfect recipe for a runaway action that winds up at a price far higher than any other video game that came before it. When that Super Mario Bros. 3 copy sold back in November, we weren’t expecting the record to be broken so soon, but apparently our expectations were not in line with reality.

Considering that this copy of Super Mario Bros. sold for more than four times what that copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 sold for, we’re tempted to argue that we won’t see this record broken anytime soon. Since all bets are clearly off, though, we’ll just keep our mouths shut and look forward to next excessively expensive video game auction to wrap up.

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This Ryzen 3000 laptop is a ridiculous $259 at Walmart

When we think of laptops that cost less than $300, Chromebooks are the first thing that comes to mind. Thanks to AMD’s family of affordable Ryzen laptops, however, we’re starting to see Windows 10 PCs around Chromebook prices. Case in point: Walmart is selling a Ryzen-loaded Asus VivoBook laptop for $259 today, nearly $100 off its MSRP and the lowest price we’ve ever seen.

That’s simply a fantastic price for a solid machine. The Asus VivoBook features a 15.6-inch display with 1080p resolution, a dual-core (four-thread) 2.6GHz Ryzen 3 3200U, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB onboard storage. It also has Vega 3 graphics, a fingerprint scanner, and Windows 10 Home in S mode. Granted, you won’t be running any high-powered games on this rig, but it’s more than capable for common computing tasks. Plus, it should multitask like a champ. You can probably play some basic games on this clamshell such as Minecraft and e-sports games. Largely, however, this laptop is for productivity, video streaming, and web surfing. 

The PC comes with S mode enabled, which means you can only download apps from the Windows store. However, Microsoft allows a one-way upgrade to regular Windows 10 (meaning you can’t go back to S mode), if you’d prefer to use desktop apps such as Chrome or Firefox.

[Today’s deal: 15.6-inch Asus VivoBook with Ryzen 3 3200U for $259 at Walmart]

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Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn’t like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he’s not covering the news he’s working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.

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The ultra-portable MacBook Air is down to a ridiculous $850 today

The MacBook deals keep on rollin’ in and today we’ve got the best one yet, especially if you like gold: Best Buy is selling the 2019 MacBook Air in the gold color with 128GB storage for $850 (silver and space gray are all on sale for $50 more). That’s a whopping $250 below the Apple Store price and the best price we’ve ever see in any color. 

When we reviewed the MacBook Air after its redesign in 2018, we named it as our top pick as the best lightweight choice for a Mac and that hasn’t changed. This laptop features an Intel Core i5 CPU, 13.3-inch screen with Retina display, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of onboard storage. It’s also packing two Thunderbolt 3 ports with a USB Type-C fitting, and Apple says it should have up to 12 hours of battery life.

This version of the Air still has Apple’s much-maligned butterfly keyboard, but Apple has refined it a bit with a new membrane that is better at noise dampening and resisting dust. However, it’s still part of the Keyboard Service Program, so if you experience issues, Apple will repair it for free.

Overall, the MacBook Air is a great machine for most people and at this price it’s hard to go wrong.

[Today’s deal: 2019 MacBook Air in gold for $850 at Best Buy]

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Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn’t like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he’s not covering the news he’s working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.

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Tech News

This AI-powered gadget could completely disrupt the ridiculous hearing aid market

Hearing loss sucks. It’s exhausting. I’ve suffered from partial hearing loss in both ears since the mid 2000’s. In order to function in the real world, I’m forced to exist in a state of constant vigilance. I have to actively listen all the time in order to avoid creating an environment where people are constantly raising their voice at me.

Over time I developed a methodology for interpreting physical and verbal cues to understand what people were saying to me in situations where it was difficult to hear – such as at a conference or at a table with multiple conversations happening at once.

Then COVID-19 happened and everyone started wearing masks. It was like starting all over again because I couldn’t watch people’s lips to fill in the blanks my hearing left out.

It’s estimated over 5% of the world’s population suffers from hearing loss. While it’s most commonly associated with the elderly, hearing loss is also the most prevalent service-related disability among US military veterans.

The fact of the matter is that hearing loss affects people of all demographics, from children with congenital conditions, to otherwise-healthy adults who’ve suffered injury or illness, to the elderly who experience age-related onset.

Unfortunately, as the CEO and cofounder of Whisper, Dwight Crow recently told me, “It isn’t a very sexy problem to solve.”

AI for good

Whisper’s an interesting company. It builds niche hardware as a means to onboard potential customers to its subscription-based update service. That’s probably not how the company’s marketing team would like its work described, but it’s challenging to reconcile the startup’s ambition with its simplicity.

The big idea here is pretty basic: You get hardware into people’s hands and then use your algorithms to keep them coming back for more. Usually, this model is reserved for entities such as YouTube and Twitter. The end game is typically to keep your attention for as long as possible so you’ll watch as many ads as the big tech bosses can shove down your throat.

But Whisper’s not trying to dupe you into infinitely scrolling in order to soften you up for impulse purchases, it’s trying to solve all of the problems with the hearing aid market.

Hearing aids suck

Hearing devices and the examinations necessary for a medical professional to recommend them are not covered by Medicare or most insurers in the US. This means people with hearing loss – of which low or fixed-income people comprise a significantly high percentage of – have to come out of pocket for their devices more often than not. And that means paying anywhere from one to six thousands dollars per device on average.

The high-end devices using traditional hearing aid tech are okay – once you surpass the cost of a pair of audiophile-worthy music headphones it stands to reason you’ll get more than just “it makes things louder.” Okay is better than nothing, but it still means people have to live with substandard hearing, even when its augmented.

Whisper’s solution to hearing loss offers the prospect of not only augmenting your hearing, but reaching superhuman levels when it comes to distinguishing targeted sounds from noise.

How it works

In a nutshell, algorithms pick apart audio to find all the salient sounds through a process called segmentation. This works similar to how AI figures out what’s in a photograph. If, for example, you snap a selfie in front of a sunset, Google’s AI can pick apart different pieces of the image to label. It might decide there’s a you, a sunset, a beach, some clouds, and some birds in the picture.

Later, if you’ve got the proper hardware and you’re using Google Photos, you can simply say “hey Google, show me all my beach pics,” or “hey Google, find images with clouds,” and the AI can surface those results.

It works the same with audio segmentation, though it’s much trickier to work with overlapping noisy sounds than it is to work with flat images.

Whisper didn’t invent the technology its using – natural language processing and audio detection, segmentation, and isolation, have been around for as long as there’s been audio devices – but it’s among the first companies to develop it into an immediately-useful solution to an ages old problem.

Whisper uses a proprietary ear device that’s designed to be more comfortable than average hearing aids. It connects wireless to a “Whisper Brain” that processes the audio using modern algorithms, this keeps it from being bulky. What’s revolutionary, aside from the tech implementation, is how Whisper solves the surrounding problems concerning hearing loss.

Rather than charge thousands for the device, Whisper works on a subscription plan. This not only allows customers to experience hearing improvements without investing thousands up front, but ensures they’ll receive regular updates as the company improves its AI.

Better still, Whisper offers full damage and loss replacement for three years so you don’t have to worry about you or your loved ones doing without one of their five senses just because something bad happens or they don’t have a large enough emergency fund.

Why it’s important

Numerous studies have shown a direct link between hearing loss and dementia. Yet there have been few longitudinal studies involving long-term outcomes for Alzheimer’s patients who’ve had hearing loss interventions. The research shows that people suffering from hearing loss experience isolation, which can be correlated to worsening dementia symptoms, but exactly how much cognitive benefit a better hearing device could provide people remains unclear.

When I spoke to Whisper CEO Dwight Crow, he explained that the time was right for disruption:

We’ve seen an explosion in the ability to extract semantic sense from language … ultimately, we want to provide people with a better signal to noise ratio.

But how much difference can “better” make when it comes to hearing aids? The status quo aren’t too far removed, in purpose, from the old go stick a horn in your ear method from the pre-electronics age. Now, hearing aids use specialty microphones to pick up noises and an onboard audio processor to boost the signals the device gauges as within the proper frequency — but the end benefit for users isn’t all that much greater than just turning the volume up. 

It turns out that hearing aids can not only get a lot better, but even a tiny bit of clarity actually makes a huge difference. According to Crow:

Ours performs two-to-three decibels better than any other hearing aid. That’s the difference, for many people, between comprehensible and incomprehensible.

What’s next

This isn’t a turnkey AI solution where some fly-by-night startup taps into a hardware market to peddle repackaged university AI (looking at you, Amazon’s second-page AI smart gadgets market).

Whisper’s built a lab in California, it’s worked with the Mitsubishi group on research, and its product development process includes working closely with groups of people who live with hearing loss. And, from what I could tell from my conversation with Crow, the company really cares.

When I asked why they wanted to build a better hearing aid instead of taking the same technology and know-how and building spy-tech with DARPA for the Pentagon or something like that, Crow said it was because  with Whisper “there’s just such an opportunity to help people.” Both Crow and his co-founder decided to create the company after watching loved ones struggle with hearing loss and the status quo.

You can find out more about Whisper here.

Published February 15, 2021 — 19:41 UTC

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Tech News

Samsung Galaxy F62 packs a ridiculous battery and a shock price

Samsung has revealed its latest Android phone, and if you’ve ever thought you needed a much, much bigger battery to make it through the day, then the Galaxy F62 should probably do the trick. Behind the 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Plus display there’s a whopping 7,000 mAh battery, significantly bigger even than the sizable 5,000 mAh pack in the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

It’s being targeted, Samsung explains, at Gen Z and young millennials, for whom their smartphone is likely their primary device. Samsung isn’t giving runtime estimates for the Galaxy F62, but it’s hard to imagine it not storming through a full day’s use with no issues whatsoever, and probably even making it through a full weekend away from a charger without particularly requiring nursemaiding.

Alternatively, you could opt to share some of that juice. There’s reverse charging support, with a Type-C to Type-C cable bundled in the box for easily sharing power with another device. A 25W charger is also included, which Samsung says should fully charge the Galaxy F62 in under two hours.

The Display runs at FHD+ resolution, with 420 nits of peak brightness. Despite how much li-ion is squeezed inside, it’s still a surprising 9.5 mm thick and 218 grams in weight.

Samsung has used its Exynos 9825 chipset, with Mali-G67 MP12 graphics, and either 6GB or 8GB of memory. Storage is 128GB either way, and – unlike with the Galaxy S21 family – there’s a microSD slot for up to 1TB cards. A fingerprint sensor is on the side, rather than in-display.

On the rear, there are four cameras. The primary sensor is a 64-megapixel Sony IMX 682, alongside a 12-megapixel ultra-wide with a 123-degree field of view. A 5-megapixel macro lens and a 5-megapixel depth lens round out the quartet.

4K video recording is supported, as is night hyper lapse, slow-mo, and Samsung’s Super Steady stabilization. You get the same Single Take mode as on the recent Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series, for both the rear cameras and the front 32-megapixel selfie camera. That can also shoot 4K video.

Out of the box there’s Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI 3.1. The Galaxy F62 also has an “AltZLife” feature, which allows users to switch between normal and private mode by double-clicking the power key. That includes access to the Knox Security-protected Secure Folder.

Three colors will be offered – Laser Green, Laser Blue, Laser Grey – with the Galaxy F62 going on sale from February 22. It’ll be priced from INR 23,999 ($326) in India for the 6/128GB version, and INR 25,999 ($353) for the 8/128GB model. No word on a US launch at this stage.

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