Investigating the Distribution of Password Choices
Malone, David and Maher, Kevin (2012) Investigating the Distribution of Password Choices. In: WWW '12 Proceedings of the 21st international conference on World Wide Web. ACM, New York, pp. 301-310. ISBN 978-1-4503-1229-5
In this paper we will look at the distribution with which passwords are chosen. Zipf’s Law is commonly observed in lists of chosen words. Using password lists from four different on- line sources, we will investigate if Zipf’s law is a good candidate for describing the frequency with which passwords are chosen. We look at a number of standard statistics, used to measure the security of password distributions, and see if modelling the data using Zipf’s Law produces good estimates of these statistics. We then look at the the similarity of the password distribu- tions from each of our sources, using guessing as a metric. This shows that these distributions provide effective tools for cracking passwords. Finally, we will show how to shape the distribu- tion of passwords in use, by occasionally asking users to choose a different password.
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