New survey reveals password nuisance

April 7, 2010 6:55:23 PM PDT
In a world where our passwords are the gateway to so many of the electronic devices we now rely on, many people are reaching a breaking point. A just released 'Consumer Reports' survey on technology gripes finds that not being able to remember passwords is the number one frustration.

Like many people, Lisa Hale is on password overload.

"I need a password for my banking online. I need a password for work. I need a password for my BlackBerry, Yahoo blogs, my AOL e-mail account. I have a password for my Outlook account at work," she said.

At Consumer Reports, 80 percent of the IT department's work involves resetting expired or forgotten passwords.

Dean Gallea, who oversees the computer testing, says using a weak password leaves you vulnerable to identify theft.

"A weak password contains information about you that's easy to find out: your name, address, birthday, or some variation of those things," he said.

And using one password for everything is a mistake. If ID thieves get the password to, say, your Amazon account, you could have unintentionally given them access to your bank account.

For stronger e-security, three passwords are ideal -- one for financial websites, another for sites with your personal information, like Facebook and a third for sites that have no confidential information, like blogging sites.

"Make it easier by starting with something you can remember, like a childhood friend's name, maybe spelled backwards. And then add some numbers or symbols to the beginning and end. That way, if you have to write it down, you can just write down the add-ons," Gallea said.

New technology can also help. There are devices that let you scan your finger in order to log on to websites and certain computers now use facial recognition software to let you log onto the computer.

If you must write down your passwords, Consumer Reports says you never want to put the list in your computer, where it can be easily stolen. Same goes for carrying it your wallet or leaving your passwords next to your computer. Instead, hide the list where thieves won't have a clue to look - like the pages of a favorite book.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2010. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)


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