Convenience can be costly, and when it comes to passwords, a new study says Americans’ habits are putting them at risk.
According to a new survey, almost half of U.S. consumers (44%) use one to five passwords to access all of their online applications, indicating that for many, using the same password for multiple accounts is common practice.
Additionally, the HSB consumer study found that Americans’ choice of storing these passwords isn’t safe either, as it is more likely they will use a sticky note than a secure password management app.
The survey asked, “Do you use a password organizer?” Only 16% responded yes, while 80% were a resounding “no.” Many said they stored passwords as notes on their smartphones, in computer documents, notebooks and planners, on slips of paper, or saved in emails they send to themselves.
One respondent added that she keeps her passwords on recipe cards. Another business owner said the “universal” passwords that are used by everyone in the company are written down for anyone to view.
To protect yourself, Timothy Zeilman, vice president for HSB suggests that instead, passwords should be strong and stored in a secure or encrypted location. “Better yet,” Zeilman adds, “use passphrases, choosing random common words that don’t occur together in everyday speech.”
Cyber risks by the numbers
Respondents were also surveyed about their computer health.
Of those polled, one in three respondents (32%) said they experienced a virus, hacking incident, or another form of a cyber attack in the last 12 months. Zeilman says this rate should be falling, but attributes part of the problem to carelessness with passwords and personal security.
As a result of these attacks, respondents say the most common type of damage (81%) suffered was a computer virus or other unwanted software on the system, up from 69% in last year’s survey.
The second most common type of damage at 42% was to software or operating systems.
Zogby Analytics was commissioned by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB), part of Munich Re, to conduct an online survey of 1,551 adults in the United States. Based on a confidence interval of 95%, the margin for error was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, meaning all other things being equal, the identical survey repeated will have results within the margin of error 95 times out of 100.