Data Viz Tool Shows You Gaping Holes In Your Password Security

Anyone can download the tool, which quickly reveals how alarmingly predictable we are.

It’s hard to instill the importance of using a multitude of passwords across services, especially when it’s tough to remember, just how many times did I use that old go-to password, anyway?

The Password Reuse Visualizer by Paul Sawaya isn’t an art project or artist’s rendering. It’s a free Firefox add-on that you can download to view the relationships of your own Firefox-saved passwords. And it’s extraordinarily effective at cutting through any personal denial that you may have about your own password diligence. Each password you have is rendered with a single green dot. The sites that share each password are attached as blue dots. And passwords that share similarity (say, you used ‘car’ and ‘cars123’) are linked through orange node squares.

For me (and the art used from this piece was generated from my own bad habits), that means one of my old, most-used passwords sprouted like a dandelion blooming with seeds. If any person or bot discovered that one password, it could instantly ping all of those attached blue dots (Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail) to gain access to those accounts. Meanwhile, my other, one-off passwords float around the dandelion like assembled tinker toys, detached from my main password’s liabilities. They enjoy their island lifestyle drinking mai tais with no concerns of attack from robo pirates.

For each cluster, you can click to see the shared password.

I’ve since cleaned up my act, enlisting LastPass to generate unique passwords (and get to the root of that password dandelion), offloading my password memory and ingenuity for the auto-calculated security of a subscription service. But had I seen this visualizer earlier, I’d have done changed my habits quicker. Maybe it’s time that such a visualizer comes standard with every browser, or at least, for everyone Firefox spots who’s still using "password" as their password.

[Image: Yellowj/Shutterstock]

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  • Gabriel Zacchai

    I also have some great advice for securing your passwords. Just send them allt o me and I'll get right back to you about it. :)

  • bjkeefe

    Pretty cool thing.  Thanks for passing along.

    HOWEVER, harrumphed my inner paranoiac, do you realize that you just gave some guy you never heard of your password to every site on the Internet?  Potentially, at least.

    I changed my master password and uninstalled the add-on as soon as I realized this.  Nothing against Paul Sawaya, but I know absolutely nothing about him.

  • glbtrader

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