25 Passwords You Need to Avoid, Use WhatsApp for Free… [Tech News Digest]

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Proof that people keep using terrible passwords, WhatsApp is now completely free to use, AOL is considering changing its name, Valve approves of a fan-made Half-Life game, and The Boy With a Camera for a Face.

The Most Popular Passwords of 2015

People are still using really bad passwords to secure online accounts, despite constant advice to the contrary. As reported by Engadget, SplashData has revealed its list of the worst passwords of 2015, drawn from the 2 million passwords that leaked last year.

This year’s list is very similar to last year’s list, which we dissected in greater detail in the now-defunct Weird and Wonderful Web column.

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. 12345
  6. 123456789
  7. football
  8. 1234
  9. 1234567
  10. baseball
  11. welcome
  12. 1234567890
  13. abc123
  14. 111111
  15. 1qaz2wsx
  16. dragon
  17. master
  18. monkey
  19. letmein
  20. login
  21. princess
  22. qwertyuiop
  23. solo
  24. passw0rd
  25. starwars

The sets of contiguous numbers are dumb for obvious reasons, and single words without any numbers are never going to be particularly secure. And then there are the likes of “password,” “qwerty,” and “letmein,” which surely only people two sandwiches short of a picnic would use.

As these passwords all belonged to accounts that were hacked or otherwise compromised, these are essentially the most popular bad passwords. Suffice to say anyone who wants to stay safe online should avoid using these under any and all circumstances.

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They should also read our tips on creating passwords, our guide to password managers, and the rather climactic-sounding, Everything You Need to Know About Passwords!

WhatsApp Is Now Free for Everybody

WhatsApp, the insanely popular messaging app with almost 1 billion users worldwide, is now completely free to use. Previously, WhatsApp charged users 99 cents per year after the first 12 months. However, the company has now decided against charging a subscription fee.

Allaying fears that this means WhatsApp will suddenly become saturated with ads, the company insists this will never happen. Instead, just like its parent company Facebook is doing with Messenger, WhatsApp is testing ways of allowing businesses and organizations to message users.

If WhatsApp charges companies for the privilege of connecting with its 1 billion-strong userbase then it could make even more money than it has already. And us, as mere users, get to use the app free and without ads. Which can’t be a bad deal. The move to free will occur over the next few weeks.

AOL Considers Changing Its Name

AOL, which Verizon acquired in 2015, is considering changing its name to better reflect the company it is now, rather than the one it used to be. That’s at least according to Chief Marketing Officer, Allie Kline, who recently told Business Insider:

“I actually don’t think there’s a bad choice, but we have to make the choice. Are we going to keep the AOL brand or are we going to bring a new brand to market? If you ask me today, I could say, ‘I feel very strongly about the AOL brand. It has a lot of legacy and meaning, and we shouldn’t move away from it!’ But if we met tomorrow, I could be like, ‘Yes! We need a new name!’ It’s a very hard needle to thread for us.”

The problem for AOL is that so many people associate the brand with America Online, which was responsible for getting so many people online in the 1990s. However, it’s now a digital media company which owns The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Engadget, to name just a few.

Should AOL change its name? And if so, what should it change its name to? Answers on a postcard in the comments section below please!

A Half-Life Sequel Lands on Steam

There’s a new Half-Life game available to pre-order on Steam. However, Prospekt, as it’s called, is not the work of Valve, the developer of the series. Instead, it’s a fan-made effort built by 25-year-old Richard Seabrook, who spent 18 months building the game from scratch.

Prospekt started out as Seabrook’s job application to Valve. However, while he didn’t land the gig as a level designer, Seabrook did secure approval for the game. Therefore, Prospekt uses assets from Half-Life 2, making it look and feel like it belongs in the series.

Prospekt is a standalone game which continues the story of Adrian Shephard, the U.S. Marine from Half-Life: Opposing Force. For the princely sum of $10, Seabrook is promising 13 new levels and a storyline “comparable to Half-Life 2: Episode One in length”. Which can’t be bad.

The Boy With a Camera for a Face

And finally, we have a short film titled The Boy With a Camera for a Face. It’s an odd title, and an odd film, but it’s also beautifully shot (by Spencer Brown) and brilliantly narrated (by Steven Berkoff). It also contains some valuable life lessons for those willing to learn.

It’s clearly a satirical look at the way we live our lives these days, with obvious allusions to media saturation and recording your every waking moment. Watch it, take it all in, and then watch it again. Then — and this is the important part — go outside and soak up the real world for a change.

Your Views on Today’s Tech News

How do you choose and manage your passwords? Are you more likely to use WhatsApp now that it’s free? What do you associate with the AOL brand? Are you interested in this new Half-Life sequel? What did you think of The Boy With a Camera for a Face?

Let us know your thoughts on the Tech News of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.

Tech News Digest is a daily column paring the technology news of the day down into bite-sized chunks that are easy to read and perfect for sharing.

Image Credits: Christiaan Colen via Flickr