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75% Of UK Online Population at Cyber-Risk

When it comes to setting online credentials, the temptation to re-use passwords across sites and services or to settle on easily remembered configurations is, as we know, all too common. Password1234, anyone?

A new survey from the UK government’s Cyber Streetwise project has revealed just how common: the vast majority of people are not taking the necessary steps to protect their identity online, with 75% admitting they do not follow best practices when it comes to deciding on passwords.

Despite 95% of Britons readily agreeing that it’s their own responsibility to protect themselves online, two-thirds are risking their safety by not using symbols in passwords. Nearly half (47%) have other unsafe password habits such as using pet names or significant dates as their password.

New guidance from the government states the key to creating a strong password includes using three words or more, and adding a symbol to make the password even more secure.

But its difficult to come up with unique, strong identifiers, especially as more of the world and our daily habits and tasks move online. The research also shows that 82% of people manage more online accounts that require a password than they did last year, with the average Briton dealing with a staggering 19 different sets of credentials.

So it’s no wonder that more than a third (35%) of those questioned admit that they do not create strong passwords because they struggle to recall them.

The figures were released to mark the launch of the latest phase of the government’s Cyber Streetwise campaign. In partnership with the police and industry experts, Cyber Streetwise aims to raise awareness of wise and unwise behavior online.

“If passwords are compromised, financial and banking details can be stolen, causing problems for the person affected, for businesses and for the economy,” the organization stressed in a blog. “There is an emotional impact caused by the loss of irreplaceable photos, videos and personal emails, but even worse, these can be seized to extort money. The good news is that most attacks can be prevented by taking some basic security steps.”

The UK government’s tips for creating and remembering passwords include things like using acronyms, but it also outlines interesting approaches like the “loci method.” Users can imagine a familiar scene and place each item that needs to be remembered in a particular location, i.e., red rose on the table, book on chair, poster on wall. Or, imagine yourself looking around the room in a specific sequence. Then, re-imagine the scene and the location of each item when you need to remember the password, like “redrosetablebookchair.”

Narrative methods take a similar tack. Users can remember a sequence of key words by creating a story and littering it with memorable details. For instance, “the little girl wore a bright yellow hat as she walked down the narrow street.”

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