A survey conducted by the UK’s Cyber Aware campaign has revealed that youngsters are more likely to lose their sensitive data to cyber criminals because of poor password hygiene practices.
More than half of youngsters aged 18-25 years use the same passwords for multiple online accounts and also use such accounts to transfer sensitive data like copies of passports and licences to others.
The survey revealed that today’s youngsters own multiple online accounts associated with online shopping, banking, social media networking and other purposes, and some of them even own up to 21 online accounts that they use frequently. Since it is difficult for them to remember passwords for each account, they usually use the same passwords for a majority of their accounts for convenience.
As many as 27 percent of 2,261 respondents that Cyber Aware spoke to confessed that they used the same passwords for multiple accounts. 79 percent of respondents also said that they use their online accounts to send bank details or other sensitive documents like driving licences and passports. This provides additional incentive to hackers to hack into such online accounts to gain access to personally identifiable information that they can misuse or sell to other criminals.
“Your email account is really a treasure trove of information that hackers won’t hesitate to exploit. You wouldn’t leave your door open for a burglar, so why give criminals an open invitation to your personal information?” said Mick Dodge, the national cyber-protect co-ordinator with the City of London police.
According to the Cyber Aware campaign, rather than reusing passwords or using easy-to-guess ones, youngsters should use strong and separate passwords so that they are difficult to guess. They should also try to use two-factor-authentication wherever possible to secure their online accounts from criminals.
“Old habits are hard to break and using the same password for all online accounts is one of them. Some customers use password manager tools, but they are still the minority, leaving the rest at higher risk of becoming account takeover victims,” says Lisa Baergen, director at NuData Security Inc.
“It is incumbent on banks and online retailers to help protect customers by correctly identifying them online with high confidence even if their credentials, passwords, and devices are stolen. Next-generation technologies such as passive biometrics combined with behavioural analytics accurately identify consumers by their behaviour. Cutting-edge intelligence helps companies understand and verify their users before they become victims of fraud,” she adds.
This isn’t the first time that poor password hygiene practices and insecure online behaviour of youngsters have come up for discussion. Earlier this year, a study by policynerwork.org revealed that financial crimes have claimed more youngsters than older people, with 25-44 year olds in the UK most likely to be victimised by financial crimes that include stealing payment card details or defrauding victims via phishing scams.
At the same time, 16-24 year olds are more likely to fall victim to computer abuse crimes that include virus intrusions and hacking attacks. According to the researchers, this is because only 57 percent and 50 percent of young people install security software on tablets and phones respectively.
A survey conducted by the government’s Get Safe Online campaign also revealed that 11% of 18-24 year olds in the country fell for phishing emails and lost an average £613, a significant sum for college-goers. At the same time, only 5% of over-55s in the UK fell for similar phishing scams and lost £214 on average.
‘Evidence from the report revealed just 40% of under 25s say they ‘carefully read and re-read all emails’, in contrast with two thirds (69%) of 55+ year olds who scrupulously check all online communication.
‘Worryingly, half of under 25s (51%) even admit to regularly ‘replying to or clicking links in unsolicited or spam emails’ – despite it being a common technique used by phishers. However, older Brits are more cautious, with only a quarter ever replying to or clicking on links in suspect emails,’ said Get Safe Online.
There’s a common misconception that as ‘digital natives’ younger people are savvier and safer online. However, as our report shows, this isn’t the case. When it comes to staying safe from cyberscammers, older may actually mean wiser,’ said Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online.
‘Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me that fraudsters have turned their attentions to the younger generation – under 25s spend so much of their time online, leaving a trail of personal information behind them, with little or no regard to security or privacy,’ said Tim Ayling, Director EMEA, Fraud and Risk Intelligence at RSA Security.
‘Cybercriminals are adept at following this trail of breadcrumbs back to their target, and ruthless when it comes to using this information against them for financial gain,’ he added.