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Ofcom to UK: Really - you're using the same password for everything?

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Brits are taking serious security risks by continuing to use the same password for multiple websites, communications watchdog Ofcom warned today.

Worse still, the regulator - which published a report today based on a survey of 1,805 people aged 16 and over - found that a staggering one in four (26 per cent) UK adults used birthdays or names as passwords for access to online services.

Ofcom said that more than half (55 per cent) of its respondents confessed that they used the same password for most, if not all, websites. The watchdog noted that many had difficulties memorising passwords - a quarter of those surveyed said they had problems doing so. This could provide an explanation as

The same report found that adults were spending more time online with an average of 19 websites visited and 16.8 hours spent on the internet each week compared with 15.1 hours in 2011.

Meanwhile, more oldies are adopting social networking sites. Last year, 64 per cent of adults said they had a profile on Facebook or other social networks. The average number of a respondent's "friends" on such sites was said to be 237.

Ofcom noted:

This growth has been driven by users aged 55-64, 35 per cent of whom now have profiles, compared to 24 per cent in 2011. There has been no significant growth among any other age group since 2011.

But trust in Facebook et al has plummeted, the watchdog said. It found that 43 per cent of respondents using social networks were wary of what they read and viewed on such sites. That compares with 35 per cent in 2011.

"This attitude is shown across almost all age groups," said Ofcom.

Interestingly, three in four (75 per cent) smartphone users said they used a screen lock on their mobile devices, while 50 per cent said they had pin protection for their SIM card.

Elsewhere in its report, Ofcom noted that one in seven Brits did not have internet connections at home and had no plans to gain access to the service in the next 12 months.

The watchdog said:

This level of non-use is unchanged since 2011 (15 per cent in both 2011 and 2012). Those over 65 are the most likely not to have home access to the internet (56 per cent of 65-74s and 28 per cent of 75+ currently have internet access, compared to 79 per cent of all adults) and are more likely to say they do not intend to get access (38 per cent for 65-74s and 67 per cent among over-75s).

The reasons most often cited for not intending to get the internet continue to be 'lack of interest' (85 per cent), followed by cost (23 per cent) and reasons relating to ownership / availability, for example not having a computer (19 per cent).

Ofcom added in its report that adult internet users were increasingly adopting security methods with 62 per cent of respondents stating they had protected their Wi-Fi connections. But many Brits continue to expose themselves to having their online accounts hacked.

"While our research shows that some people are still taking security risks online, they clearly feel these are outweighed by the benefits that the internet brings," said Ofcom director of research James Thickett. ®

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