It seems incredible that although millions of people world-wide now routinely carry out significant financial and other transactions via the Internet, so little action is taken to prevent identity theft, writes Bloor Research analyst Tony Lock.
A recent study conducted by Opinion Research Corporation and commissioned by RSA Security, investigated the attitudes, perceptions and security practices of consumers today and compared them with opinions they held one year ago. The survey questioned more than 1,000 people on their awareness of security issues and their feelings of safety. It also considered what safety measures are taken to combat identity theft and computer attacks. The results are not encouraging.
Some 63 per cent of respondents considered themselves to be "more informed" on the issue of identity theft, but of these nearly half (49 per cent) do not consider themselves to be any safer now than they were last year. In fact, one in four consider themselves more exposed and fewer than one in five of those questioned consider themselves safer now than they were during the same period last year.
And what did the RSA survey discover close to the root of the problem? Passwords. Or rather the fact that too many people depend of on too few, frequently insecure passwords. The survey discovered that 63 per cent of those responding to the survey employ fewer than five passwords for their access to all electronic systems. More alarmingly still, 15 per cent use the same password for everything they do. Result: get hold of someone's password and you may well have access to every system to which they have access. Have a quick look around - is that a password on display on the post-it note under the desktop?
This is a poor state of affairs. Even cash machines require both a password (PIN) and a card to give up the funds. It is by no means perfect, but it is better than just giving one’s name and PIN. The fact that a majority of enterprises still depend on username / password access systems should be a concern to every CEO.
As long as we are placing our trust in people’s memories and their ability to keep a secret to protect IT systems, we will be exposed. There are now security tools available to help reduce the dependence on weak passwords. Biometric authentication is almost ready to enter the mainstream and numerous secure and numerous two factor authentication systems are readily available. How many passwords do your staff employ? How many passwords do you use? How secure are your systems? Enough said.