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Don't let age distort your password handling - password management - Umgang mit Passwörtern, choix des mots de passe,, gestione delle password

Don’t let age distort your password handling

Age makes all the difference when it comes to password policies. Studies show that digital savvy Millennials are far worse than their more conservative, less technically adept elders on password handling – or they might be better. It depends on how you read the data.

Recent data collected by IBM Security shows that age has a clear impact on basic password management.  In a nutshell, the younger a person is, the less apt they are to use good password hygiene – with two interesting exceptions.

The younger you are, the more likely you are to do the following:

  1. Use fewer passwords
  2. Use less secure passwords, with a mix of characters, symbols, and capitalization.

Alas, the follies of youth and the wisdom of the aged

At first glance, it does look like the youth are blissfully ignoring the risks from identity theft and the damage that a lost or stolen password can wreck. Yes, data shows that younger crews are indeed using fewer passwords and are more likely than their elders to reuse these passwords between accounts.

The younger Generation Z (age 18-24) is using an average of just 5 passwords, only 39% are bothering to make a secure password, and a whopping 42% are reusing passwords between their various accounts. Recycling insecure passwords between accounts is a recipe for a major disaster.

Contrast this to the 55+ age cohort where they have an average of 12 passwords in their day-to-day regime. Almost half of these seniors, 49%, are making the effort to create a complex password and only 31% say they reuse passwords between accounts.

Millennials, just slightly older than the Gen Z crew, are essentially in the same on the security scale as their younger siblings – substantially below the 55+ crew. According to IBM, only 42% use complex passwords (seven percentage points below the 55+ crew). A substantial 41% reuse the same password multiple times (10 percentage points ahead of the 55+). As the first world’s first digital natives, Millennials should know better about the password security basics.

Speed and convenience (usually) trump security

The younger a person is, the more willing they are to sacrifice security for extra speed and convenience – a fact that will not surprise any parent. Conversely, as people age, they are less willing to trade security for convenience.

As bad as this sounds, young people are not a complete security write-off. They have the lead over the older folks on the last two interesting points:

  • Young folks are more likely to use a password manager.
  • They are more confident about using biometric authentication such as finger or retina scans.

With 36% using a password manager, Gen Z is 10 percentage points ahead of the general population in adopting this technology. A password manager falls into the sweet spot of both saving time and effort (with remembering only one secure Master Password required) and greatly enhancing account security. It is really a huge step forward. Use of a password manager could have contributed to this age segment using an average of just five passwords instead of the 12 used by the older 55+ crowd.

Younger people are quite confident about the use of biometric authentication, at 75% they are 17 percentage points ahead of the general population. Given their generational preference for speed – and the time required to scan a finger versus entering a secure password – this can be expected. At the moment, fingerprint recognition is the preferred authentication method, with complete handprints, voice, and heartbeat recognition lagging far behind. While this raises other privacy implications, going biometric is preferable to recycling insecure passwords.

Do you have multi-generational password security?

When it comes to Millennials, they want to have their cake and eat it too: Definitely fast and secure if it doesn’t take too long. A password manager like the Avira one is one of those rare security tools that provides both.

But the IBM Security survey raises two interesting thoughts for the future. Why don’t developers position their password manager as a task-accelerator/efficiency tool instead of a security app. Face it, managing passwords sounds about as exciting as washing the dishes. Then they could wrap in some up and coming biometric authentication technologies to reduce human involvement even more. The result could be something like, “Hey phone – look at me. Log into the bank account, let’s pay the mortgage now.” Now that would be a true multi-generational password manager.

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As a PR Consultant and journalist, Frink has covered IT security issues for a number of security software firms, as well as provided reviews and insight on the beer and automotive industries (but usually not at the same time). Otherwise, he’s known for making a great bowl of popcorn and extraordinary messes in a kitchen.