How common password pitfalls are leaving Aussies vulnerable online

Jun 21, 2023
The latest findings undoubtedly serve as a crucial reminder to prioritise and enhance password security. Source: Getty Images.

Experts have released alarming new research that has revealed the vulnerable password practices of Australians.

According to a study conducted by YouGov on behalf of Telstra, a staggering 78 per cent of the nation’s population employs the same password across multiple accounts, with easy to guess choices such as pet names, sports teams, and birthdates being the most popular.

The research further reveals that a concerning 1.4 million Australians rely on the same password for ten or more different devices and accounts, leaving them highly susceptible to hacking attempts. Additionally, an astonishing 1.5 million individuals admit to storing their passwords in easily accessible locations, such as on the fridge, while 1.2 million keep them in their wallets or purses.

The consequences of these lax password practices are already evident, as Aussies have collectively lost a staggering $194 million to scams and hacking incidents in the first four months of 2023, according to the latest ScamWatch data.

Telstra’s Cyber Security Expert, Darren Pauli, emphasises the importance of password prudence when it comes to protecting your valuable personal information.

“Your password is the first line of defence when it comes to your online safety so don’t make it easy for scammers to make you a target,” Pauli explained.

“Criminals are relentless and will exploit Australians’ tendency to use the same password across multiple accounts. All it takes is one breach and multiple accounts can be compromised.”

Contrary to popular belief, Pauli advises using a unique and memorable passphrase, incorporating a mix of capital letters and special characters to strengthen security. He warns against relying on common choices like “P@$$w0rd” which remain prevalent.

The research also uncovered that nearly half (46 per cent) of Australians have utilised easily guessable passwords for their devices and online services.

Shockingly, one in five individuals resort to their pet’s name, while more than one in ten opt for generic choices like “password”, “123abc” or “123456”. Men are twice as likely as women to employ such vulnerable passwords.

Moreover, one in ten Australians confesses to using their favorite sporting team, with Millennials being the most common culprits at 16 per cent. Additionally, 17 per cent of respondents have used their own birthdates as passwords.

Additionally, the study highlighted that almost two in five Australians (37 per cent) admit to sharing certain passwords with family members, with nearly one in five doing so across two or more accounts, further compromising their security.

To address these alarming trends, Telstra provides crucial tips for password security, urging individuals to adopt a Be SUSS approach:

  • Suspect unknown numbers.
  • Update software regularly.
  • Strengthen passwords.
  • Switch on multi-factor authentication.

By implementing these measures, individuals can play an active role in protecting themselves against malicious attacks and securing their digital lives.

Considering the ACCC’s previous reports highlighting that individuals aged 65 and above tend to be more vulnerable to scams, experiencing heightened losses as they grow older, the latest findings undoubtedly serve as a crucial reminder to prioritise and enhance password security.

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