According to a report in the New York Times, a German-born programmer – Stefan Thomas – has two guesses left to figure out a password worth, as of this week, about $220-million.
If he remembers the password, he will be able to unlock a hard drive that contains the private keys to a digital wallet with 7 002 bitcoin.
However, it’s been years since Thomas lost the piece of paper on which he’d written down the password. The hard drive gives 10 guesses before it encrypts its contents forever. Thomas has tried eight of his most commonly used password formulations, but with no luck.
Why do people forget their passwords?
A study conducted by Rutgers-New Brunswick and Aalto University in Finland suggests an interesting theory on why people forget their passwords so often. According to the study, the likelihood of remembering a password has less to do with its complexity than with how often we expect to use it.
“In other words, you’re far more likely to remember a complicated password if you know you’ll be using it frequently. And you are less likely to remember a simple password if you don’t expect to use it very often,” says Chad Hammond, security expert at NordPass. “So perhaps Thomas didn’t believe in the success of bitcoin and didn’t anticipate ever using the password.”
What passwords do people forget most often?
Research conducted by NordPass reveals that email passwords are the most forgotten. The researchers reviewed millions of Google queries and found out that, in total, 40% of people searching for password reset tips want to know how to reset their email passwords.
The second most searched query (25%) was how to reset passwords on various operational systems such as Windows 10. Password reset for Google accounts was the third most searched query (16%), followed by some generic searches (8%), such as “forgot password” or “change password”. Even less searched were social media providers (5%), entertainment (4%), various devices (1%), and productivity applications (1%).
Why do people forget their email passwords more often than others? The NordPass survey revealed that people value their email accounts the most and use unique passwords to safeguard them. “Naturally, while this is a fantastic and highly encouraged security practice, it’s much easier to forget a unique password,” says Hammond. “Also, according to our survey, people don’t tend to sign out of their email accounts. So they don’t actually need to remember the password that often.”
How to never forget a password
To those struggling with passwords, security experts suggest relying on password managers. “These tools will not only remember your password for you and make logins secure and convenient. They will also help you generate unique credentials, as well as check for any related breaches,” says Hammond.