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Aussies’ password habits still slack, says study

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“Through 20 years of effort, we’ve successfully trained everyone to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember, but easy for computers to guess,” is how xkcd puts it*.

That’s probably why people don’t change their passwords unless someone forces them to, which is the unsurprising finding emanating from a PayPal-sponsored study by the ANU-hosted Centre for Internet Safety.

The study also finds the widespread probably-delusional belief that “my password is hard to guess”, with 90 percent of the study’s 1,000 respondents comfortable that their variation on pet’s name and child’s birthday is safe.

Perhaps surprisingly, most users reported that they don’t put any personally identifying information in their passwords; but since they believe their password is safe, they then use the same password across multiple sites (63 percent of respondents, and 77 percent between the ages of 18 to 24 years old).

Mirroring behaviours overseas, we’re also slack about protecting the password, with the survey finding that 41 percent of respondents has shared their password with a friend, family member or colleague without changing the password afterwards.

The “xkcd effect” is present in our password behaviours: hard-to-remember passwords are written down by 46 percent of respondents, while younger users prefer to store their passwords on mobile phones.

In more reassuring news, the study found that most users – more than 95 percent – don’t want Websites to remember their passwords. Well, it would be reassuring, except that more than a third of users get around the forgotten password by leaving their computers logged into online sites, rising to 76 percent among the youngsters.

The paper is published by PayPal, here.

*The comic in question is here. I can’t vouch for 'Randall’s' math, but it would be a life-changing experience for most of us if he's right.

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