Magazine article Work & Family Life

Computer Passwords May Be Revealing

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Computer Passwords May Be Revealing

Article excerpt

The passwords we choose to access our email and shop online are "a 21st century Rorschach inkblot test," says psychologist Helen Petrie, Ph.D., a professor of human-computer interaction at the City University of London. She surveyed 1,200 computer users for an Internet domain-name company and identified four specific password "genres."

The most common, used by nearly half of the respondents, was "family-oriented." This included the person's own name or nickname, the name of a child, partner or pet or a birth date. Occasional computer users were more likely to be in this genre, said Dr. Petrie.

A third of the respondents were "fans," who used the names of movie stars, singers, athletes, sports teams or fictional characters as passwords. This genre was favored by younger people who, Dr. …

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