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Attacks/Breaches

People, Not Passwords, Are the Problem

UK government study says end users still don't know how to protect their passwords online

If you thought end users were getting smarter about passwords and computer security, a new survey from the British government may cause you to think again.

The U.K.'s Department of Trade and Industry Monday revealed the results of a survey it conducted with 1,800 adults who work and play online. The survey was part of the DTI's Network Security Innovation Program, under which the agency is spending more than $8 million to research ways to reduce the risk that human error plays in computer network security.

Among the survey's results:

  • Just over one third recorded their password or security information by either writing it down or storing it somewhere on their computer.

  • Nearly two thirds never changed their password.

  • One in five people used the same password for non-banking Websites as they used for their online bank.

"Unfortunately, the weakest link in network security is not usually with the technology, but with the staff and system users," said Malcolm Wicks, Minister for Science and Innovation. "A DTI survey found that a shocking number of people were careless with passwords, unwittingly exposing themselves and their companies to fraud and theft."

The U.K. lost nearly $900 million to credit card fraud last year alone, with 62 percent of companies experiencing a network security incident, Wicks said. "The stakes are high -- this is a problem we need to fix."

The Network Security Innovation Platform was created to bring government and business together to develop new ideas to improve network security. The four projects will, for the first time, use behavioral science in a bid to tackle the human risk element in network security, the DTI said.

"It is estimated that development of this research could represent an estimated extra [$250 million] market for businesses," the DTI said. "In addition, it will represent significant savings for those companies who adopt the findings."

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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