Every year there is an ongoing tradition when internet security companies share the worst passwords of the previous year. Depending on an individual’s taste, the list with the least safe passwords might be the funniest thing ever seen or a sad testament to the fact that most internet users still haven’t learned the lesson of properly securing their online identity.
Although these bad password lists are always informative, the problem is that they have long since lost their shock factor due to the fact that, unfortunately, the worst passwords usually remain the same. What’s more interesting, however, are the surveys regarding password habits, especially when they spice things up a little bit regarding gender expectations, pitting the two together in the eternal gender war by asking a simple question: are men better at protecting their online privacy, or is it a field in which women prevail?
The Lessons of the Past
Before we jump into the results of the latest study, it’s best to look at past studies. Granted, there are certain findings that fall under the category of trivia: a presentation uploaded to the Passwords^12 Media Archive in 2013 claimed red-haired women to be the best at coming up with strong passwords. At the same time Roger Grimes’ article from 2009 revealed that men’s passwords included hobbies, while women preferred personal information. However, we won’t say that these are necessarily bad examples – quite the contrary: both the presentation and the article were full of valuable information regarding our online security habits.
As a matter of fact, some findings from the past remain just as thought-provoking to this day. In 2009, PC Tools, a now discontinued computer magazine from the UK, came to the conclusion that 47% of men were prone to using the insecure practice of logging in to multiple online accounts with the same password, compared to just 26% of women who did the same.
As Though Nothing Has Changed
You might think that in the wake of more frequent cyber attacks, people will have learnt to improve their password habits for the better – perhaps with men finally catching up to women in what online security is concerned. Sadly, this couldn’t be more further from the truth.
A recent survey conducted by IT consultancy firm EPC group that asked 600 people discovered that the online accounts of men are still more vulnerable to hacker attacks than those created by women. As a matter of fact, men are almost three times more likely to include the word ‘password’ on its own or as part of a longer phrase when being asked to create a secure password.
Women, on the other hand, tend to create passwords with more characters in them: in normal cases this reduces the chance of being hacked, but women’s passwords were still deemed weak by EPC’s study, as those usually included their lover’s name in some form.
Achieving Equality via Online Security
Although the results of the EPC’s study are indeed miserable, the awareness of online security in the U.S. is steadily increasing, albeit slowly. The same survey revealed that 39% of Americans never include personal details when prompted to create a new password, while every four U.S. internet users out of ten change passwords quite frequently.
Still, there is a long way to go until every netizen, regardless of gender or age, can surf safely on the web. The first step towards such a world where we don’t have to worry about weak passwords and the constant threat of having our most sensitive data stolen by hackers is pretty simple. With a password manager in tow, the creation of strong yet memorable passwords is a simple task, and their security is increased even more when activating two-factor authentication.
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