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Password Reuse Rampant, But Users Value Security, Survey Says

More people adopt some online—and mobile—security, but still fail in proper follow-through, according to a new study by Varonis
A new survey finds that more people are becoming security-aware and even password-protecting their smartphones and setting two-factor authentication for their email and online accounts.

While 77 percent use passwords on their phones and nearly half employ two-factor authentication for their online accounts, a new study by Varonis finds, some 61 percent are always or often using the same password for multiple accounts and applications—basically defeating the purpose of their authentication practices.

[UPDATE 5/1/13: A new Consumer Reports study published today shows about a 16 percent lower rate of smartphone security adoption, with 39 percent of adult smartphone users in the U.S. not using a screen lock, backing up their phone's data, nor running a missing phone app.]

Andy Green, technical content specialist at Varonis, a data governance firm, said in a recent blog post that Varonis hopes two-factor authentication will eclipse single-factor passwords, a solution noted in the recent Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

"There are some encouraging signs, however. In our just-published Privacy Survey, over 47% told us they use multi-factor authentication for their personal email accounts. If this trend can carry over to corporate email and intranet access, then we may finally see a dip in these low-skill, but still very effective, password-based hacks," Green wrote. "It's a stat [we] will check again next year."

Meanwhile, two-thirds of the respondents in the Varonis study say they have or think they have sent personal information unencrypted to a business via email.

More than 90 of the respondents in the survey say they expect businesses to protect their personal data and online information, and 97 percent say they are more likely to do business with a company that protects data and 54 percent would pay "a premium" if that business protected their data properly.

"It is encouraging that people are seeking out companies that are better at securing their data - however, the vast number of breaches occurring on an almost daily basis indicates that businesses, just like individuals, are still struggling to get the basics right in securing their data," says David Gibson, vice president at Varonis.

And here's a surprising statistic: 71 percent say they actually look at the fine print in end-user license agreements and terms of service, the report says.

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