Password Security: Your Grandma's More Password Savvy Than You4:00 PM EST Wed. Oct. 24, 2012
We doubt that the researchers were specifically looking at whether or not age played a factor in password selection, but that is one of the questions raised by the findings of a recent poll of 2,000+ U.S. adults conducted by cybersecurity firm ESET and Harris Interactive. Maybe it's a matter of "password fatigue" after having to come up with passwords for just about everything in life nowadays, but the numbers are interesting, if not outright troubling. Here's a look at some of the most common password vulnerabilities and the different correlations between those who chose wisely and those who didn't.
Re-using the same password might be easier than remembering a lot of different ones, but it also makes it a lot easier to hack the full spectrum of your accounts. Everybody knows this, right? Not quite. About 46 percent of survey respondents admitted to using the same password for multiple accounts, with the group most likely to do this being those aged 18-34 (49 percent).
Short and simple passwords seem to have a correlation to economic status, according to the study. It says 79 percent of lower-income U.S. adults are less likely to create complex passwords than higher income individuals. Meanwhile, 88 percent of people earning $50,000 to $75,000 used complex passwords, while 89 percent of those earning $75,000 or more used long, complex passwords.
Sure, you can use the same 4-digit PIN, but not if you want to stay secure. The good news, according to the report, is that most people already know this. Only one in 12 respondents use the same code for both their ATM PIN and voice mail on their mobile phones. The other 11 respondents were thinking about keeping their money safe.
Okay, so your mom doesn't know how to use the computer as well as you do, but get this! The survey says 84 percent of the respondents use a combination of numbers, letters and symbols when creating passwords. But, at 89 percent, senior citizens aged 55 or older were among the top survey respondents to use complex passwords. That one surprised the %/@# out of us!
The survey says 65 percent of respondents aged 18-34 keep their smartphones logged in to Facebook, Twitter and other social sites, representing the highest percentage of any group. Thirty-eight percent of people aged 35+ said they stayed logged in. Among students, the number was 62 percent. Retirees had the lowest percentage of respondents remaining logged in, at 28 percent. The seniors win the security game yet again!
According to the survey, less than one in 10 users (9 percent) store their passwords in their browser, with 16 percent of 18-34-year-olds being most likely to do this. And, the trend favoring the elders continues: People aged 55+ are the least likely to do save their passwords in their browser, with a mere 5 percent.
Oh, it's all so intuitive. Who needs training? Well, judging by the numbers of people who get hacked, probably quite a few. But, the survey says only 32 percent of respondents have ever had any training on computer security and protecting their personal information. Among the consumer population, that number was a mere 10 percent. That noise is a muffled cheer from the black hat hacker community.
Although it's one of the most commonly used exploits, only 54 percent of respondents were able to define the word "phishing." The rest, we presume, are busy trying to log their credentials into bogus banking sites after being asked to do so over email.
Yes, BYOD's happening all the time. But today's honorable mention goes to a nice little statistical ditty that says most of us have already connected our devices to the company network. According to the survey, 82 percent of employed adults in America use at least one personally owned digital device for work.