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Encouraging Password Hygiene
Practicing good password hygiene such as using strong passwords and never using them for any other application can be a huge nuisance. Many people, including yours truly, would love to see passwords fade into oblivion and be replaced by stronger authentication technologies, such as biometrics. But the fact remains that passwords will continue to be used extensively for the foreseeable future, and for as long as they remain with us, it's imperative that we adhere to good password protocol. Verizon's 2019 Data Breach Investigation Report reveals that more than 60 percent of successful data breach hacks were due to compromised or stolen log-in credentials.
Information that describes good password practices is abundant, but people continue to be careless. So how can we successfully encourage people to actually follow these practices?
Interestingly, while I was pondering this issue, I came across a Wall Street Journal article. Written by a cybersecurity professor, the article describes research that the author and her colleagues did on this very topic—how to get people to create strong passwords—and I thought it would be useful to share their findings.
So what's the secret to getting us to use strong passwords, according to these researchers? It's the simple incentive of time—and by this I mean the length of time we're allowed to keep our passwords. The researchers found that people were willing to use stronger passwords if they could keep them for longer than they had in the past.
The conventional wisdom used to be that we should change passwords at least once a year. Now many financial service providers and others require users to change passwords every 30 days. However, some organizations continue to allow longer time periods, or perhaps don't enforce change at all, but offset the longer duration with stricter rules, requiring longer passwords with a minimum number of special characters. I imagine most of us are accustomed to the strength bar or bubble graphic that shows us the strength of a password as we're creating it. These might be useful in educating us about what strong passwords look like, but the researchers found them to be ineffective in driving people to create strong passwords.
I'll admit I don't always practice the best password hygiene. One of several reasons for this is that it seems my passwords expire so frequently. But I could get fully on board with building stronger, unique passwords if that meant I would have more time before I had to change them.
Have you seen or experienced other tactics or solutions that have pushed you to use better password hygiene? If so, we would love to hear from you!
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