🎁 'Tis the season to support public service journalism Donate Now

Choose your numbers wisely

Marc Sanchez Feb 21, 2012

When my high school science teacher used to call us “dumb bunnies,” we didn’t take it too personally. First off, the phrase was softened by his Hungarian accent, and secondly, we knew it was just his way of telling us to give our answers a little thought. When it comes to choosing computer passwords, people are notoriously dumb bunnies. Now we find out that choosing an ATM PIN can lead to equally poor decisions.

Researchers at a Cambridge University computer lab found that 1 out of 18 wallets stolen will yield gold for the thief who looks at the victim’s identification and types in their birthday as the PIN. Dumb bunnies, don’t use your birthday. It’s not all the user’s fault, however, some banks still let people use simple passwords like 1111 or 1234. The New York Times reports: “The group based its analysis on data from a trove of 32 million passwords stolen and then made public from the RockYou social gaming Web site in 2009 and a smaller database of iPhone log-in sequences, as well as an online survey conducted with more than 1,100 Internet users.

Keep in mind that the PINs they looked at were all user-generated. If you want to significantly better your odds at not having your bank account pilfered, try sticking with the auto-generated number that the bank issues.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.