Pet names and password help

Washington Post
Friday, June 09, 2017

Internet security and homeless animals might seem to have little in common. But they come together quite adorably in Skallagrimsson, a boxer mix puppy who is available for adoption in New York City.

Skalla, as his temporary caretakers at the city’s Bideawee shelter organization call him, was recently named by the Swedish cybersecurity firm BehavioSec. It chose similarly unwieldy monikers for a few of his sheltermates – both to draw attention and potential adopters their way and, the firm says, “to give a selection of adoptable puppies and kittens extraordinary, rare names designed to provide their new owners with a lifetime of cybersecure passwords and security questions.”

That’s because we internet users have password problems, as data breaches frequently remind us. We pick terrible, easily hackable ones like “password” and “123456” and, yes, our pets’ names.

Pet names make for poor passwords because many people give their dogs and cats the same ones – Bella and Charlie, for example, are popular for American pooches. And using those as passwords, BehavioSec spokesman Benedict Bunyard said, can make people vulnerable to “a ‘dictionary attack,’ where a hacker runs a list of common passwords through a program to quickly try thousands of entries (meaning that Otto1 and Charlie99 will almost certainly come up).”

Which brings us back to Skallagrimsson, a dog named after a 10th-century Icelandic poet, warrior and farmer. His name, the firm says, is password perfect. It’s got more than 12 characters, and it’s replete with letters that can be substituted with symbols or numbers. His eventual owner might try Skallagr!m55on, or maybe Sk@ll@gr!mss0n.

Jennifer Goodwin, vice president of development at Bideawee, said in a statement that the initiative is a way to raise awareness about animal adoption “while reminding new pet parents to be cognizant of keeping passwords secure, even if it means forgoing Fido for something slightly less vulnerable, like Nunbarsegunu.”