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Te Whanganui-a-Tara – A switch to smarter passwords could save New Zealanders millions of dollars.

CERT NZ, the government agency which supports organisations and people affected by cyber security incidents, says Kiwis lost almost $17 million last year through cyber attacks.

In some cases, the loss was because of weak passwords or reusing passwords across multiple online accounts.

A password manager service cited passwords 123456, picture1, password and 12345678 as some of the most commonly used passwords in 2020.

Attackers use software that automatically tries the most common passwords against accounts and using these sorts of passwords makes it easy for the attackers to find their way in, CERT NZ director Rob Pope says.

CERT NZ and Consumer Protection research found only 41 percent New Zealanders say they always make sure their passwords are distinct, long, and complex when signing in. CERT NZ is running a campaign to help New Kiwis improve their passwords.

Pope says passwords should be more than to be more than 15 characters and each account should have a different password.

Using a passphrase, a mix of four or more random words, such as bananamousebookwindow, makes it difficult for an attacker to crack.

This would take password cracking software approximately three billion years to guess but is much easier to remember than the usual complex passwords which are a mix of symbols, numbers, letters, Pope says.