Home Security Most people have lax password habits, says ME Bank

Most people have lax password habits, says ME Bank

The message isn't getting through: almost nine out of ten people use the same password with multiple accounts.

A new survey carried out by Members Equity Bank found 89% of respondents admitted to reusing passwords across two or more accounts, even though half said they had become more anxious about cyber scams during the last 12 months.

To make matters worse, almost half of the phone or tablet users surveyed said they shared passwords with other people. The proportion rose to almost two-thirds among Gen Y respondents.

The reason for re-use is pretty obvious. "These stats aren't surprising, given the average person now needs to remember about 19 different passwords for the digital services they use," said ME's cyber security expert Samantha MacLeod.

"Unfortunately, digital users tend to pick easy-to-remember combinations that they repeat across applications on their devices. Or they share passwords to save paying for subscriptions."

She suggests two ways of breaking the re-use habit.

One is to use a password manager: "A computer program is much better at creating and remembering all of your complex passwords than you could ever be."

Only 10% of the respondents use password managers, which dovetails neatly with the finding that 89% re-use passwords.

The most common way of remembering passwords was "keeping a paper list and putting it in a safe place". Other popular strategies include "using patterns" and "saving passwords on phones".

"Industry research suggests a password pattern can be cracked in five attempts by someone determined to access your data," said MacLeod.

The other suggested way to avoid re-use is to move towards biometrics. ME's mobile app has used iOS's Touch ID since 2016 and, according to Apple, apps that support Touch ID automatically support Face ID as well.

The survey suggests people are generally comfortable with the idea of biometrics. Seventy-one percent said, "biometric passwords are easier as they don't have to remember their password" all of the time, and 67% said "biometric passwords increased their confidence in protecting their money".

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.