Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud

1/26/2017
08:50 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Pew Research Study Exposes America's Poor Password Hygiene

Americans feel like they've lost control over their online lives, but they still aren't always practicing proper security.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center on how Americans view cybersecurity finds that most people are concerned about online security but forgo the necessary steps to protect themselves.

The survey of 1,040 US adults shows that 41% of them have shared the password to one of their online accounts with friends or family members. Young adults are especially likely to engage in this behavior – 56% of online adults ages 18- to 29 have shared passwords.

Along with sharing passwords, 39% say they use the same password or very similar passwords for many of their online accounts. And 25% often use passwords that are less secure than they’d like because simpler passwords are easier to remember than more complex passwords.

"When it comes to passwords, very few of us are acing the test," says Aaron Smith, a co-author of the report, and associate director, research, at Pew. "And no age group is doing particularly well."

Smith says the study also found that people feel that they have lost control over their personal information. For example, the study found that 64% have directly experienced some type of significant data theft or fraud and 49% think their personal data has become less secure in recent years.

Americans have also lost confidence in major institutions to protect their data, mostly notably the federal government (28%) and social media sites (24%).  In contrast, 42% of respondents say they are "somewhat confident" and another 27% say they are "very confident" that their credit card companies can be trusted to protect their data.

"In some ways it’s not a fair comparison because social media sites especially don’t have a full customer service staff and 1-800 numbers to call," says Eddie Schwartz, board director at ISACA. "Social media sites like Facebook are free and you get what you pay for."

Schwartz adds that for the most part the Pew data meshes with a recent ISACA/RSA study from last year where 74% of respondents said they expected to fall prey to a cyberattack in the next year, and 60% hsf experienced a phishing attack.

"So yes, we know these cyberattacks are happening, we know they are bad, we’re afraid, but not always willing to do something about it," Schwartz says.

On a more positive note, the Pew study found that 52% of those surveyed use two-factor authentication on at least some of their online accounts. And 57% say they vary their passwords across their online accounts.

Here’s a sampling of some of the other findings of the report:

  • Roughly 10% of those surveyed say they never update the apps on their smartphone, and only 32% do so automatically. Another 14% say they never update the operating system.
  • 51% surveyed say a major attack on our nation’s public infrastructure will "probably" happen in the next five years, while 18% say it will "definitely" happen.
  • 75% of American have heard at least something about the Target breach, and 47% has heard "a lot" about it. Only 33% of those surveyed are aware of the OPM attack with only 12% hearing "a lot" about it.
  • Americans are divided over encryption. 46% believe that the government should be able to access encrypted communications to investigate crimes, while 44% says that technology companies should be able to use encryption tools that are unbreakable to law enforcement. Democrats and younger adults tend to support strong encryption, while Republicans side with law enforcement. 

 

Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
RyanSepe
50%
50%
RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2017 | 10:14:03 AM
Sharing Passwords
Its astounding the amount of people that share passwords. In a business context, I have found that even when their are legal implications this practice is more common then one would think. I've had physicians tell me that their password is to be given to their assistant as they are the ones who log into the machine. Legally, their assistants may not be able to view the files that as a physician they are allowed to view.
BillB031
50%
50%
BillB031,
User Rank: Strategist
1/29/2017 | 11:36:08 AM
Re: Sharing Passwords
"Legally, their assistants may not be able to view the files that as a physician they are allowed to view"

 

Actually partially true.  As an x-ray tech, I was legally able to see anything the Radiologist (MD) could see including diagnosis, but only had access to "need to know" data.   For example, If I was performing a MRI to image a suspected brain tumor, I'd have to know what was going on to know what to look for, to get the best images for the Radiologist and Oncologist. 

So basically, as far HIPAA is concerned, you are allowed to see any patient info as long as it has something to do with your need to perform your job to assist the Doctor and Patient.  You also sign a non-disclosure agreement when you take these jobs, and violation of that agreement could end you up in jail.

 

I don't buy the Democrat vs Replubican bs.  I fully believe Apple cooperated with the Feds backdooring that iphone from the muslim terrorist, but had an agreement with the Feds to save face. 
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2017 | 10:39:01 AM
Re: Sharing Passwords
"but only had access to "need to know" "

I agree, otherwise you would not be able to do your work. Sometime we take HIPAA too far.
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2017 | 10:41:25 AM
Re: Sharing Passwords
"...that agreement could end you up in jail. "

I am not up to date on this topic but never heard that somebody went to jail just because they saw patient information, mainly monetary penalty to the institution I would say.
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2017 | 10:42:45 AM
Re: Sharing Passwords
"Apple cooperated with the Feds"

I hear you. Obviously all does and they can not tell you that they do, it is part of the law, they continue to lie the public that is not a problem. :--))
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2017 | 10:32:17 AM
Re: Sharing Passwords
"Its astounding the amount of people that share password "

I hear you. And we are asking them to use a strong password, it is just a fun game.
RyanSepe
100%
0%
RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
1/27/2017 | 12:20:21 PM
Americans Divided
"Democrats and younger adults tend to support strong encryption, while Republicans side with law enforcement."

I found it odd that this was a surveyed question on the topic of Password Hygiene.
szurier210
50%
50%
szurier210,
User Rank: Moderator
1/27/2017 | 3:24:59 PM
Re: Americans Divided
Study was much broader than password hygiene. Go further down in the story and link to the full report, you will see more in-depth info. 
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2017 | 10:36:51 AM
Re: Americans Divided
"Study was much broader than password hygiene"

True. It is still stating what is obvious, we do not use strong password and share password among different sites, that is our nature I say. 
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2017 | 11:27:32 AM
Re: Americans Divided
@ryansepe: Seems Like a reasonable question to (1) either confirm or debunk a common presumption, and (2)provide good press-release fodder for thes tudy. ;)

more tot he point, though, I'm curious what their definition of a "youngeradult" is. 18-35? 18-29? 18-25? Big difference between a 35-year-old and a 25-year-old, IMHO.
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2017 | 10:45:01 AM
Re: Americans Divided
"provide good press-release"

I say that is always part of the game. It is always not looking bad.
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2017 | 10:46:22 AM
Re: Americans Divided
"youngeradult"

I see, that would range quite wide, it may even be not senior for that matter. :--))
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2017 | 10:34:35 AM
Re: Americans Divided
"Democrats and younger adults tend to support strong encryption"

I am not sure, it depends I would say. There are democrats who are concern not having enough information on our personal lives.
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2017 | 10:30:57 AM
No password
I am looking for those days that we do not have to use passwords, not helpful, not working, not functional, ...
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2017 | 10:43:19 AM
Encryption
As article pointed out most people do not know what it is, it sounds like a name of an Act a government came up with and most think they do not have to know a lot about it, they are not aware of it that it is personal.
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/4/2017 | 7:55:04 AM
Password hygiene and mindful choices
So I've been thinking about this...

And, okay.  I'm on board with the idea that a lot of this data implies "poor password hygiene," as per the headline, but I'm not on board with the notion that the facts presented in the 2nd paragraph on sharing passwords w/ friends and family members is *necessarily* poor password hygiene.

The question refers to "online accounts".  There's a HUGE difference between telling a casual acquaintance your email or social media password and telling your family members and/or significant other your Netflix or HBOGo password so you can all share and watch video.

There are nearly countless reasons to share certain passwords with trusted loved ones.  Couples may share bill-paying duties, use the same Netflix/HBOGo/other online video accounts, and perhaps may even use the same computer.  I've even known couples to share the same Facebook account and (especially where older/elderly couples are concerned) even email accounts -- even if the account is in only one of their names.

Moreover, what-if plans are commonly in place -- and really should be in place -- for after someone dies.

I mean, sure, sharing passwords willy-nilly is a bad idea.  And yes, sharing passwords at all increases the attack surface.  But mindfully made choices with good reason do not poor password hygiene make.  If we want laypeople to listen to us about good cybersecurity practices, we've got to be less draconian.
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 9/25/2020
9 Tips to Prepare for the Future of Cloud & Network Security
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  9/28/2020
Vulnerability Disclosure Programs See Signups & Payouts Surge
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  9/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15216
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-29
In goxmldsig (XML Digital Signatures implemented in pure Go) before version 1.1.0, with a carefully crafted XML file, an attacker can completely bypass signature validation and pass off an altered file as a signed one. A patch is available, all users of goxmldsig should upgrade to at least revisio...
CVE-2020-4607
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-29
IBM Security Secret Server (IBM Security Verify Privilege Vault Remote 1.2 ) could allow a local user to bypass security restrictions due to improper input validation. IBM X-Force ID: 184884.
CVE-2020-24565
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-29
An out-of-bounds read information disclosure vulnerabilities in Trend Micro Apex One may allow a local attacker to disclose sensitive information to an unprivileged account on vulnerable installations of the product. An attacker must first obtain the ability to execute low-privileged code on the ...
CVE-2020-25770
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-29
An out-of-bounds read information disclosure vulnerabilities in Trend Micro Apex One may allow a local attacker to disclose sensitive information to an unprivileged account on vulnerable installations of the product. An attacker must first obtain the ability to execute low-privileged code on the ...
CVE-2020-25771
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-29
An out-of-bounds read information disclosure vulnerabilities in Trend Micro Apex One may allow a local attacker to disclose sensitive information to an unprivileged account on vulnerable installations of the product. An attacker must first obtain the ability to execute low-privileged code on the ...