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Canadians and passwords: A hotchpotch of poor practices?

Many people use weak passwords and this is so for Canada as much as anywhere else in the world.

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki, <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/laptop?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Joshua Woroniecki, Unsplash

A new study set to gauge the safety of Canadians’ password practices as well as their comfort levels with different user identification technologies, has published its findings. The survey was conducted by the company GetApp.

According to the responses, which were drawn from over 1,000 participants, 55 percent of Canadians are reusing passwords across accounts. Even when changing passwords is triggered by the software in order to refresh the security of a given account, 37 percent of respondents said that they only change a few characters. This practice generally goes against the good practice of using unique passwords for each account.

When people are not prompted to periodically update their password, less than a third (31 percent) of users change their passwords on a regular basis.

The re-use of passwords leaves people vulnerable to cyberattacks. In terms of counter actions, new technologies in user authentication such as facial recognition and two-factor authentication are slowly paving the way to more secure web usage (an electronic authentication method in which a user is granted access to a website or application only after successfully presenting two, or more pieces with multi-factor authentication, of evidence).

This progression to newer technologies will be challenging, however, given that the same survey finds that many Canadians say they prefer to use old-fashioned password protection methods. Furthermore, in embracing biometrics, around half of those surveyed are not comfortable using facial recognition for retail transactions.

Central to this is a combination of the convenience of reusing a password coupled with a deep distrust of new technology. Distrust extends to concerns with identity theft as well as relating to privacy.

There is greater acceptance of two-factor authentication, which is either used by, or accepted by, over 80 percent of respondents.

While authentication is at a high level, it remains that very few Canadians are using secure technologies such as mobile authentication apps or biometric authentication. These usage rates stood at 36 percent and 13 percent respectively.

As a rule, Canadians appear to be more comfortable with facial recognition technology when it is deployed in official settings and designed to protect public safety. Examples are when crossing national borders or where law enforcement use such technology for the purposes of investigating crimes.

However, the survey respondents were found to be far less comfortable using facial recognition in personal interactions such as retail. This relates to fears about personal data being misused by private companies.

The survey results indicate that there is some way to go in relation to embracing newer technologies to reduce the incidences of data breaches or cybercrime. Addressing public mistrust is the biggest barrier to overcome.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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