Most and least common phone pins revealed - is your security at risk?

Personal identification numbers (PINs) are critical for our online financial accounts, gadgets, and confidential data. The simplicity of a four-digit PIN belies its security implications; with a mere 10,000 combinations available, crafting a truly unique code is not as straightforward as it seems.

A weak or easily guessed PIN can be an open invitation to cyber intruders, underscoring the importance of selecting a robust, distinctive code. Privacy specialist Trevor Cooke from EarthWeb has delved into the patterns of PIN usage, highlighting the most and least favoured choices and explaining the significance of opting for a strong and individual PIN.

The Most Common PINs

Research into compromised password databases and security breaches, which revealed over 3.4 million four-digit PINs, indicates that the most frequently chosen PINs are often those that are memorable due to their simple patterns but are also very predictable.

The top ten most commonly selected PINs are:

  • 1234

  • 1111

  • 0000

  • 1212

  • 7777

  • 1004

  • 2000

  • 4444

  • 2222

  • 6969

These PINs typically include repeating numbers, sequences, or dates that hold personal significance, rendering them susceptible to brute-force attacks. Some 10.7% of all PINs analysed were "1234", and the three most popular PINs comprised nearly 20% of all PINs in the dataset.

The Least Common PINs

The rarest 4-digit PIN was found to be 8068, appearing only 25 times among the 3.4 million passwords - a negligible frequency of just 0.000744%.

The ten least used 4-digit PINs, beginning with the most infrequent, are:

  • 8068

  • 8093

  • 8398

  • 7638

  • 8428

  • 8285

  • 7583

  • 6835

  • 8629

  • 7539

The listed PINs are uncommon due to their lack of apparent patterns, repetition or any personal connotations such as birthdays or anniversaries - usually the sources for more predictable PINs. Their random and hard-to-remember nature likely makes them some of the least frequently chosen combinations.

Trevor suggests that while opting for a truly random PIN boosts security, it might make the number challenging to remember. Thus, he proposes some tactics to invent unique yet memorable PINs.

One could adopt the Word Method: Map your pin to a word using letters on a telephone keypad. For instance, the word "SAFE" equates to the PIN "7233". Opt for an infrequent word that's unlikely to be guessed.

Taking advantage of significant dates is another method. Despite avoiding easily guessable dates like anniversaries or birthdays, one can utilise a significant date as a pin. A day you adopted a pet or your first date with your partner could serve this function. Further customise by combining or altering the numbers.

Developing patterns or acronyms is another strategy; Find a pattern or acronym that may be significant to you but would be alien to others. Consider using the first letters of a favourite quote or reversing the numeric pattern of your childhood street address.

Lastly, Increasing the length of your PIN is a formidable option. Numerous systems accept PINs beyond 4 digits. The lengthier your PIN, the more challenging it is for anyone to crack.