The Past, Present, and Future of Password Security

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In simpler times, passwords broke down physical barriers – they allowed people into secret gatherings, opened safes, the list goes on. Enter the digital era, and passwords now act as the gatekeepers to our personal data, as they lock down everything from our social media accounts to our email inboxes. No matter the era, passwords have always accomplished one thing – they provide access to the previously inaccessible, which means managing these passwords in a safe way is crucial. To see how password management has changed over time, and in honor of World Password Day, let’s take a look at the past, present, and future of password security.

The past

Historically, passwords have been written down a piece of paper or kept in a notebook since it can be hard to keep track of so many passwords. And because of this struggle, users were also more inclined to use the same password for multiple accounts. In fact, according to last year’s World Password Survey, 34% of the respondents in the U.S. admitted to doing this on a regular basis. What’s more – users will make their passwords as simple as possible (think dog’s name or birth date) in order to able to remember these passwords.

The present

Unfortunately, not much has changed current day, as this year’s survey takeaways reminded us that password security still has ways to go. Consumers who responded to the survey have an average of 23 online accounts that require a password, but on average only use 13 unique passwords for those accounts. 31% only use two to three passwords for all their accounts so they can remember them more easily. And lists are far from dead, as the most common way to remember passwords is to keep a written or digital list of all passwords (52%).

Things tend to get worse when consumers actually do forget their password. 32% forget a password once a week, and when they do forget this password, 48% of respondents claim they abandon what they are doing online entirely. What’s more – 23% of respondents claim that forgetting a password is as painful as a papercut, and all respondents claimed they had to call tech support twice a year on average for help resetting a password.

The future

The good news is – the future is looking bright. There are state-of-the-art password solutions involving biometrics, multi-factor authentication, and other sophisticated technology already hitting the scene. And more coming down the pipeline, as a few web browsers are actually aiming to kill passwords entirely. Beyond that, there are proactive measures you can take individually in order to prepare for your future security as well. To ensure your passwords act as your first line of security, follow these tips:

  • Create strong passwords. Passwords are the keys to our digital lives, so make sure to create strong and unique passwords to keep unwanted people out. Include numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and symbols. The more complex your password is, the more difficult it will be to crack. Finally, avoid common and easy to crack passwords like “12345” or “password.”
  • Use unique passwords for each of your accounts. By using different passwords for your online accounts, you avoid having all of your accounts become vulnerable if you are hacked. It might seem difficult to keep so many passwords, but it will help you keep your online accounts secure.
  • Use a password manager. Take your security to another level with a password manager. A password manager can help you create strong passwords, remove the hassle of remembering numerous passwords and log you into your favorite websites automatically.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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