Safe PIN selection is something all debit and ATM card holders should consider. Too often, we pick numbers that are easy to punch into the keypad, and that leaves us with really easily compromised PIN passwords.
PIN stands for Personal Identification Number. Your ATM or debit card PIN is designed to help you identify yourself at an ATM or when performing an ATM-network transaction at the point of sale. It’s a security measure designed to help you stay safe.
So How Do You Pick a Safe PIN?
Most debit card and ATM PINs are 4 digits. This means there are 10,000 possible PIN codes available for you to choose from. Recently, rocket scientist, former Microsoft engineer and digital security expert Nick Berry released some really interesting PIN analysis he compiled from some 3.4 million 4-digit passwords he was able to find online — mostly from hackers posting the PINs they had stolen.
Needless to say, the math geeks and high-security software developers at PerkStreet quickly started passing this analysis around. I had the idea to share some of Berry’s insights with you here on our blog in an effort to help you pick a safe PIN should you find this article when activating a new card. Here’s what Berry says about how to choose a safe PIN:
1) Don’t Pick an Ascending or Descending PIN
According to Berry, the most popular PIN is 1234. He says nearly 11% of all PINs are 1234. With that in mind, there are only 7 other ascending combinations possible on a regular PIN pad. By the same token, there are also just 8 descending PIN combinations (IE. 9876). These are among the very first PINs a thief would guess if he or she got ahold of your card!
2) Don’t Pick a Repeating PIN
Selecting a PIN like 1111 or 0000 is really tempting because it can be so easy to punch in. Unfortunately, these are also the second and third most popular PINs around, occupying a combined 8% of the PINs Berry was able to find. Repeating PINs like this only come in 10 combinations. All 10 of those combinations are among the top 15 most popular, and will be among the first to be guessed by a thief. The same goes for PINs like 1212 or 9393. All of these “simpler” PINs are also among the easiest to steal if someone is looking over your shoulder.
3) Don’t Pick a Memorable Year for Your PIN
According to Berry’s analysis, every single 4-digit PIN beginning with “19xx,” can be found among the 2,000 most popular PINs. in the 10,000 PIN set. Does your wedding year make a safe PIN? No way! An identity thief who gains access to any of your personal data will be able to find that date quickly. Berry also says that your year of birth is a likely guess for your PIN number according to his research. Stay away from important years!
4) Don’t Pick a PIN that’s Easy to Punch In
Berry notes that most PIN pads on ATMs and point-of-sale devices mimic the numeric pad on your phone . He says the number 2580 is the 22nd most popular PIN, and if you look at your phone, you’ll see that those numbers run straight down the pad! Avoid numbers that go in a straight line down an ATM pad if you want to make sure you pick a safe PIN.
5) Don’t Start Your PIN with “0″ or “1″
PINs starting with “0″ and “1″ are also among the most popular, likely due to the fact that many people use specific days in the format MMDD or DDMM for their PINs. Again, if thieves have access to the same 4-digit PINs that Berry found online, they know what the most popular PINs are, and they’ll know this “0″ and “1″ tendency as well.
The Least Popular PIN is… (Drumroll Please)
Although Berry was able to find PINs on the Internet representing all 10,000 possible 4-digit combinations, he says the least popular PIN in that data set was 8068. Now, before you go changing your PIN to 8068, I did NOT say that this is the most safe PIN you can choose. Don’t do it! Now that Berry’s analysis is out on the web, thieves are almost certainly aware of it and they’ll be watching for the PIN 8068 to appear more often.
So What is a Safe PIN?
If you want to pick the safest PIN possible, choose one that doesn’t ascend or descend, represent an important date or any other memorable number publicly associated with your identity (like your phone number or SSN). Make sure it doesn’t begin with “0″ or “1″ and that no dates are repeated. Ideally, this number should have nothing to do with anything else in your life. It should just be a random set of digits. Take the time to memorize your new PIN after you select it and you’ll have much less to worry about when it comes to the security of your debit or ATM card.
What do you think of this data? What other steps do you take to keep your money and your identity safe? Share your tips with our community below.