Americans Not Doing Enough to Protect Their Privacy Online

November 4, 2015, Written By John H. Oldshue
Security lock with privacy message on white computer keyboard - information privacy concept

Nearly every American consumer (98%) believes they are creating safe passwords, but a recent study shows that only 6% are actually doing so.

The study by Avast, a company specializing in PC and mobile security, is surprising since 69% of respondents say having others access their personal information is one of their biggest fears. In fact, the research found 74% of Americans would rather have their nude photos leaked than personal banking information, yet fewer people lock their banking apps than their photo apps.

The survey of 6,800 consumers found the average length of a password is only eight characters and only 4.7% of consumers use special characters in their passwords. 95% of passwords contain only letters or numbers.

“While Americans are rightfully concerned about privacy, there is a disconnect between that concern and the steps they take to protect themselves,” said Vince Steckler, chief executive officer of Avast. “Users have a multitude of devices and passwords to keep track of, which can be overwhelming. When users feel overwhelmed, they tend to default to unsafe practices that put their privacy at risk.”

Websites are making it much too easy to create these weak passwords. Of the top 20 most-visited websites in the United States, 17 do not require passwords to use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Twelve of these websites accept passwords with as few as six characters, and two even allow passwords of less than six characters.

Security experts state that passwords should be no less than sixteen characters, with a mixtures of characters and numbers. Nearly 30% of respondents are not using these more complex passwords, though, as they said that they were “too hard to remember.”

In a separate survey conducted by Avast, 40% of Americans stated they do not use a password or pin to lock their smartphones, and another 50% rarely or never change their passwords for online websites–even after they’ve been notified of a site breach.

“We make it too easy to have our privacy taken–either through our own laziness or because websites don’t demand more of us,” Steckler said. “To protect our privacy, we need to modify our behavior, and that includes using better password management techniques.”

The information contained within this article was accurate as of November 4, 2015. For up-to-date
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