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October 13, 2010

Poor password practices rampant: survey

Younger internet users more reckless, but all groups making critical mistakes

By CBR Staff Writer

Research released by Webroot has revealed that most commonly used password-protected sites among consumers are banks (88%), personal email accounts (86%), and Facebook (72%) – all of which are rife with sensitive information.

Webroot surveyed more than 2,500 individuals across the US, the UK and Australia and found that 4 in 10 respondents shared passwords with at least one person in the past year, and nearly as many people use the same password to log into multiple Web sites, which could expose their information on each of the sites if one of them is compromised.

The research revealed that almost half of all respondents never used special characters in their passwords; and 2 in 10 have used a significant date, such as a birth date, or a pet’s name as a password – information that’s often publicly visible on social networks.

The study found that among 18 to 29 year-olds: 2% have shared a password in a text message (vs. 4% overall); 30% logged into a site requiring a password over public WiFi (vs. 21% overall); and over half (54%) have shared passwords with one or more people in the past year (vs. 41% of people overall).

The survey also revealed more than half (51%) of the UK users never used special characters in their passwords, and a quarter of those surveyed from the UK use a significant date, while 21% use their pet’s name, as a password.

Webroot said that 41% of those quizzed from the UK said that they often, most of the time, or always use the same password for multiple accounts.

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Three quarters (77%) of all those surveyed, and 81% of respondents from the UK, have five or more online accounts that require passwords and 39% of UK respondents have 10 or more password-protected accounts, and only one in 10 in the UK never use the same password on different accounts.

UK users reported that they most commonly access online banks and financial services (92%), email (88%), and online retailers (81%) using password-protected accounts.

55% of those in the UK reported they occasionally, often, or always forget their passwords and have to use a recovery mechanism to log into an account.

The company said that nearly half (48 %) of people in the UK feel their passwords are very or extremely secure, yet: 89% who access sensitive information from an unfamiliar computer don’t ensure that the network connection is secure before they use it, and 96% don’t check to see if the computer has antivirus installed before using it.

According to the report, 19% of the UK users never changed their banking password and a quarter of UK users chose a significant date for a password.

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