Feeds

Americans are pants at password security

Willing to spill the beans for coffee vouchers

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Americans are just as blasé about password security as the Brits, according to a new survey. Two out three three people (180 of 272) approached in a downtown San Francisco street by researchers were happy to provide their password in exchange for a coffee gift card. Of those respondents that declined offering their actual password, 51 provided a clue about their password in exchange for a $3 Starbucks gift voucher.

Only 41 of those quizzed (or 15 per cent) on San Francisco[s Market Street refused to hand over the goodies. Whether these people were adverse to either Starbucks or coffee remains a mystery. It's also possible that people told researchers fibs just to get a freebie, of course, but the suspicion remains that many people are prepared to hand over their password on a whim. Several respondents were so enticed by the allure of a $3 coffee card that they gave away their password and then mentioned to surveyors that they would change their password as soon as returning to their computer.

Similar UK surveys have found that around 70 per cent of UK workers were happy to hand over their password in exchange for a Marks & Spencer's Easter Egg. VeriSign - which sponsored the US survey - admitted it was light-hearted and unscientific. Nonetheless it reckons its poll illustrates real challenges about password management.

Of all respondents, 57 per cent reported having four or more passwords, and 79 per cent reported using the same password for multiple websites or applications, a practice that means one stolen password could jeopardise multiple accounts.

The survey also found that some people continue to store passwords on Post-it notes. Other popular locations for passwords include the contacts folder of email applications, on PDAs and in the notes function of a mobile phone.

VeriSign spins its survey findings to illustrate that more secure forms of user authentication are needed to protect against digital ID theft, such as two-factor authentication products from the likes of VeriSign. Well it had to get a plug in there somehow.

The survey was published yesterday in the run up to the Digital ID World conference in San Francisco next week (9-12 May). ®

Related stories

Brits are crap at password security
Surveys are tosh, and so's your reporting
Office workers give away passwords for a cheap pen
Banks 'wasting millions' on two-factor authentication

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.