Are your passwords keeping you safe online?

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Written by: Chris Hockings, Chief Technology Officer and Master Inventor, IBM Security

Just for fun, do a quick survey on your online passwords. Give yourself a point every time you say yes to these questions:

  1. I have a password similar to 12345
  2. I use my kids/husbands/pets name in a password
  3. I use my phone number as a password
  4. I have shared an online password with a friend or family member
  5. I use the same password for multiple online accounts
  6. I participate in fun online surveys that ask for personal information
Chris Hocking

Chris Hockings

If you scored 6 you are in trouble. In fact, if you scored 1 you are in trouble. Today, password cracking tools can crack a weak password all too easily, sometimes within minutes. But if it makes you feel better, the chances are you are not alone, and there are things you can do to better protect your online identity.

The reality is that major data breaches are opening the floodgates on personal data and passwords. In fact, according to IBM X-Force data nearly 3 billion records were breached globally in 2017 alone. For this reason, and where passwords are increasingly compromised, we are at a tipping point where methods including biometrics, such as fingerprints or facial recognition, and multifactor authentication will move more into the mainstream.

In a recent IBM report on the Future of Identity Study, we took a closer look at consumer’s preferences and concerns about biometrics, passwords, multifactor authentication and more. A few findings include:

  • Users prefer security over convenience, particularly for their financial apps, with people ranking security as top priority (70%) over privacy or convenience for money related accounts.
  • Biometrics will become more mainstream, with 88% of Australians stating they would be interested in using such technology in the future. Biometrics were generally seen as more secure than passwords, though concerns about security and privacy remain.
  • Age Gap. Older generations set the bar for better password habits, while younger generations are more likely to take other steps to secure their accounts – such as using a password manager or enabling multifactor authentication.
    Tips for keeping your sensitive information safe online

Currently only 21% of Australians are using a password manager, with the same % using biometrics authentication now or in the past. So, it is clear that many of us still need to take steps to stay safer online. Here are some simple tips:

  • Use Multi-Step Authentication:
    Where possible, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) that confirms a login on multiple levels, such as password + a mobile app or one time password
  • Opt for Passphrases vs. Passwords: Skip complex passwords and instead use longer “passphrases” – several unrelated words tied together, at least 20 characters. These are actually harder to crack and easier to remember.
  • Choose a Password Manager: Rather than try to memorize multiple passwords or store them insecurely, use a password manager, which not only acts as a vault for existing passwords, but can also generate stronger passwords for you.

Good luck and stay safe online. To learn more about threat-aware identity and access management for the open enterprise click here.

In an era where personal information is no longer private and passwords are far from unbreakable, the future of identity is now everyone's business. Millennials are more lax on passwords, but also more likely to use newer security methods. People in Asia have the highest biometric knowledge and comfort level, while U.S. lags behind. Consumers overwhelmingly rank security as a top priority.

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