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Password security in the United States - Statistics & Facts

In the sense of code-phrasing, passwords have existed for centuries, going all the way back to the Mesopotamian civilization. From the famous Open Sesame key word in the Arabian Nights folk tales, to the military countersigns flash, thunder, and welcome used by Allied forces on D-Day during World War II, people have always felt the need for encrypted communication forms to keep certain matters secret. Passwords were first introduced in the computing environment in the early 1960s by Fernando Corbato. However, in 2014, Corbato allegedly described passwords as a nightmare, as at the time of creation no one could have foreseen the development of the internet to its current state. Nowadays, passwords are ubiquitous.

Passwords: behaviors, habits, and breach

Creating strong passwords in 2022 requires more than an act of imagination – it calls for unpredictability. The most frequently used words to create passwords in the Unites States were curse words or personal information such as birth year, pet’s or child’s name. Knowing an individual’s personal details, cumulated with modern hacking tools able to quickly scan entire dictionaries, leads to a successful password breach. In 2021, one out of four respondents in the U.S. had their password breached between three and four times. The increasing number of hacked accounts in the U.S. is the consequence of individuals mostly using the same password for more than one account. Another reason is that people often share their passwords. A study conducted among U.S. individuals who shared their streaming account password with another person, found that 36 percent of them used the same password for their personal email account.

For those about to use a password manager, we salute you

Living in a highly digitalized world makes it increasingly difficult to keep track of our online accounts. At the same time, using the same password credentials for multiple accounts has been proven to put individuals at substantial risk of online fraud. The main reasons respondents turned to password managers are the desperate need for measures to secure password authentication and the fact that people find it difficult to remember all their passwords. The current rule of thumb for password manager usage in the U.S. is: the more important the online account, the higher the usage of a password manager. Thus, it comes as no surprise that more Americans used a password manager for their online banking accounts, as opposed to their music streaming accounts.
The most used password manager in the U.S. was LastPass, with McAfee and Bitwarden ranking third and fourth in people’s preferences. Unfortunately, in 2021, around 50 percent of U.S. respondents have never or rarely used a password manager app. Consumers must realize that maintaining a secure password authentication method requires embracing additional security controls, which will create, encrypt and store unique and complex passwords for every account.

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