Despite the growing risk of cyber-attack, 73% of Europeans would rather reveal their online passwords than go without underwear, according to a European study by Kaspersky Lab and IFOP. The new study aims to raise awareness among consumers that passwords are a lot like underwear, and that password management to maintain a private life online is not that different from responsible underwear-management.
The study explored the difference between Internet users’ password-changing habits and their attitudes towards changing their underwear. The results show unequivocally that Internet users worry more about having clean underwear than they do about passwords — despite the fact that strong online passwords are increasingly important as a defense against cyber-threats.
The victory of fresh pants over fresh passwords is seen throughout the study. Just under half (44%) of respondents say they have shared their passwords with colleagues, family or friends, with a significant number happy to do so again. This compares to a mere one in four (26%) who would be willing to share their underwear with another person.
Similarly, only around half of those surveyed change their passwords twice a year or more, while an overwhelming 87% claim to change their underwear every day.
“We tend to think that passwords don’t really protect us and that they are just a bothersome requirement devised by IT experts to make us believe our credentials are safe. The reality is that cyber criminals are ready to spend a lot of time and money on trying to steal the passwords that protect some of our most confidential information.
“The study we conducted in partnership with IFOP is interesting because it clearly illustrates the complex, contradictory attitudes people have toward passwords. Some information can be genuinely private or confidential, while some may be of no interest to other people at all. Its value is relative to what it could be used for. We prefer taking the theoretical risk of having our private lives exposed rather than complying with guidelines to protect ourselves. Yet in most cases, staying safe involves following just a few basic rules. For example: passwords aren’t meant to be shared, shouldn’t be on view for the whole world to see, and should be changed regularly — just like underwear“, says David Emm, principal security researcher, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab has drawn up a few guidelines to help users get to the bottom of effective password-protection:
Rule No.1: Like underwear, passwords should be changed regularly
When asked how often they change their passwords, Internet users across Europe revealed significant disparities from one country to the next. The French are firmly in bottom spot, with 58% of respondents saying they change their passwords less than twice a year — and in some cases never. The Spanish (46%) and the Danes (45%) hardly do any better. The Germans come out on top, with 36% saying that they are regularly change their passwords. Thankfully, the figures are reversed when it comes to underwear: 87% of respondents claim they change theirs every day. Some nations are less fastidious about changing their underwear, particularly the Danes: 11% don’t bother to put on clean undies every morning!
People should bear in mind that, while resetting passwords too often can have its downsides, data security experts recommend that users change all account passwords if there is the slightest suspicion that their privacy may be compromised. This rule applies if you tend to share your passwords with other people. And it’s an absolute must if you have shared your passwords with someone you’ve just broken up with!
Rule No.2: Like underwear, passwords aren’t meant to be shared!
Keeping a password secret might seem obvious, but when asked if this is more important than keeping underwear to yourself, people don’t seem to be as fussy! The Kaspersky Lab survey reveals that 44% of Internet users have already shared their password with someone else. However, it would appear that they are slightly less generous when it comes to their underwear, with 74% saying that they would never share them!
The Dutch seem to be the most pernickety about passwords, but even so, 38% of them admit to sharing their password with someone they know. But this isn’t as bad as the Italians (46%), the Danes (47%) and certainly not the French (51%).
Rule No.3: Unlike underwear, passwords must not be revealed (not even in private!)
Is the common nightmare of being naked in public about to be superseded by the fear of having our personal data splashed all over the Internet? We shouldn’t bank on it. When asked which of these two situations scares them most, the vast majority of respondents — 73% — said that their worst nightmare would be being seen naked in public. Only the Italians are less coy about being seen in the nude: 65% said they would rather leave their privates uncovered than have their private online data exposed.
According to Laurence Allard, lecturer, IRCAV-Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle and sociologist for innovative usages:
“As little kids, we all had this dreadful nightmare of standing naked in the schoolyard. As we grew up – and our lives became digital – it seems that this fear was joined by the exposure of our confidential data, a true mirror of our intimate worlds. Indeed, losing one’s password opens up a series of fears, starting with the risk of seeing one’s personal data exposed to strangers. As electronic devices are playing a more prominent role in our lives, it is now vital that we follow a healthy and impeccable lifestyle when it comes to security, if we don’t want to find our data spread across the internet or used for malicious purposes. Changing one’s password, not sharing it, and choosing a different structure depending on the services and terminals used are behaviors which will result in a secure and reassuring connected life.”
Kaspersky Password Manager: a global solution
To address the challenge of having to create and remember complex passwords, and to help businesses significantly enhance their data security, Kaspersky Lab has developed Kaspersky Password Manager. Available for PCs, Macs and for Android and iOS phones and tablets, the Kaspersky Password Manager solution stores all account passwords in an encrypted vault. All passwords are then automatically synchronized across all of the user’s devices, letting them easily and rapidly access the passwords for their favorite websites and apps. Kaspersky Password Manager includes a strong password generator that automatically creates effective, individual passwords on the user’s computer (a growing requirement for many online services). These strong passwords can then be used on all their synchronized devices.
Conducted jointly by IFOP and Kaspersky Lab among a sample of 1,000 internet users in 7 countries (UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands and Denmark), the survey used a quota sampling method (gender, age, profession / income for Denmark) using stratified sampling by region. The survey was conducted using computer-assisted self-administered interviews, between September 16 and 22, 2015.