Why You Should Use Password Blacklists

Simply put, a password blacklist is a list of passwords that your users are prevented from using when they set their password.

According to CyberNews, the top 10 most commonly used passwords are (drum roll, please):

  1. 123456
  2. 123456789
  3. qwerty
  4. password
  5. 12345
  6. qwerty123
  7. 1q2w3e
  8. 12345678
  9. 111111
  10. 1234567890

When I saw this list, my jaw dropped. I am amazed that it is 2021, and users keep using these predictable passwords. Everyone seems so afraid of getting their digital identity stolen, yet they don’t even bother to ensure that their passwords are hard to guess. A password blacklist would include these commonly used passwords to prevent users from utilizing them.

Bad actors out there know of this list. They love it when users use these passwords. Simple, easy-to-guess passwords can make their job painless. In fact, there are two types of attacks that count on users using these incredibly simple passwords: dictionary attacks and password spraying.

Dictionary Attacks

Dictionary attacks run through a list of well-known passwords or phrases in an attempt to find a match to get into a user’s account. The list was once based on words in the dictionary, thus it is called a dictionary attack, but today the attacker is more likely to use a list of commonly used passwords such as the top 10 listed above. There is even software available to mix and match common combinations such as a birth year and someone’s name. CyberNews found that 1987 and 2010 are the most common years used in passwords and Eva and Alex are the most common names.

Password Spray Attacks

Dictionary attacks are often automated and try many passwords against the same user account. By setting limits on how many times a login attempt can be made these types of attacks are often blocked to a certain extent. Password spraying, however, is a bit of a simpler approach. The bad actor tries just a few known passwords at a time against any given account, thus avoiding login attempt lockout settings. This type of approach can be done by someone who isn’t even technical because they can manually try a few common passwords at a time and move on to another account.

Best Protection Plan

Adding in a password blacklist can provide additional security by preventing the attackers from getting past a simple password login flow in the first place. OneLogin’s Password Blacklist, introduced in our Summer 2019 quarterly release, provides partial matches so you can include the word “password” and it will catch variations such as “password123” or years such as “2010” and it will catch any passwords that include “2010.”

Keeping your password blacklist as up to date as possible with the passwords identified in the CyberNews study is a great place to start. This could be thousands of passwords that you would need to ensure are entered and kept up to date. In fact, UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) recommended blocking up to 100,000 of the most commonly used passwords to a password blacklist. An easier option would be to enable a feature like OneLogin’s Compromised Credential check which is part of OneLogin’s SmartFactor add on. This is basically a dynamic password blacklist. When you enable this feature all passwords that users provide are checked against a list of known compromised passwords, passwords that have been captured when bad actors steal credentials from other systems. This list is kept up to date and maintained by OneLogin. Whether you choose to implement and maintain your own password blacklist or look to OneLogin to maintain it for you, it is imperative that you prevent your users from using any of these simple, easy to guess passwords.

About the Author

Alicia Townsend

For almost 40 years, Alicia Townsend has been working with technology as both a consultant and a trainer. She has a passion for empowering others to use technology to make their lives easier. As Director of Content and Documentation at OneLogin, Ms. Townsend works with technical writers, trainers and content marketing writers to inspire and empower everyone to take advantage of what OneLogin’s platform has to offer them.

Related Articles