Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday Wonderings: What is a popular PIN?

With 10,000 options for a 4-digit pin number (0000 through 9999), and with many PINs being personal choices, the distribution pattern of combinations is not going to be anything like random. However, what IS the pattern for the most common PIN numbers? And what is the least common?

Well, the blog Data Genetics did some number crunching on PIN numbers based on "data condensed from released/exposed/discovered password tables and security breaches", and this is what was found to be the 20 most common PIN numbers:
     PIN   Freq
#1   1234  10.713%
#2   1111   6.016%
#3   0000   1.881%
#4   1212   1.197%
#5   7777   0.745%
#6   1004   0.616%
#7   2000   0.613%
#8   4444   0.526%
#9   2222   0.516%
#10  6969   0.512%
#11  9999   0.451%
#12  3333   0.419%
#13  5555   0.395%
#14  6666   0.391%
#15  1122   0.366%
#16  1313   0.304%
#17  8888   0.303%
#18  4321   0.293%
#19  2001   0.290%
#20  1010   0.285%
To put the popularity of "1234" another way:
The most popular PIN code of 1234 is more popular than the lowest 4,200 codes combined!
The very least common PIN number (i.e., the 10,000th most common) was 8068. However, the blog author adds this warning to the result:
Now that we’ve learned that, historically, 8068 is (was?) the least commonly used password 4-digit PIN, please don’t go out and change yours to this! Hackers can read too! They will also be promoting 8068 up their attempt trees in order to catch people who read this (or similar) articles.

Check out about the Nash Equilibrium
For everyone out there using a PIN that starts with "19--"; there's some worrying news for you, too:
Many of the high frequency PIN numbers can be interpreted as years, e.g. 1967, 1956, 1937 … It appears that many people use a year of birth (or possibly an anniversary) as their PIN. This will certainly help them remember their code, but it greatly increases its predictability.

Just look at the stats: Every single 19?? combination can be found in the top fifth of the dataset!
There is a lot more information (including lots of graphics) over at Data Genetics, and so I'd check it out... (especially his "Conclusions" section) and then take some advice and maybe change your PIN (especially if it's 1234, 1111, 0000, 1212, or any of the top 20). As with many things that intersect society and numbers, xkcd has made some comics, and (like with Data Genetics) I will end with them here:

Side note: I really find it humorous that "6969" is in the top 10 most common 4-digit PIN combinations (ahead of several PIN combinations of just the same number, like "9999" or "6666").

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