Consumers Keep Track of Passwords in Unsafe Ways

Younger consumers, age 18-24, are the most likely to use memory as their primary way of managing passwords, the Harris report found.

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The most common method that American consumers use to manage passwords for their online accounts is simply their memory (63 percent), but two in five say that they write down passwords on paper, while a quarter allow their browser to save their passwords for them, according to a survey of 2,030 U.S. adults, conducted for Password Boss by Harris Interactive.

The survey also found that 59 percent admit to reusing passwords because it is too hard to remember them, and that more than half of Americans (54 percent) agree that they need to change their password habits.

Younger consumers, age 18-24, are the most likely to use memory as their primary way of managing passwords (74 percent for males and 76 percent for females), while older consumers, age 65+, are most likely to write them down (59 percent for males and 67 percent for females).

"Password managers offer consumers a simple solution to the hassle of having to remember the passwords of various sites," Password Boss CEO Steve Wise told eWEEK. "Most password managers, Password Boss included, offer features like password generators that ensure complex, unique passwords, and password vaults that store each individual password so consumers don’t need to remember them. Users should also take advantage of two-step verification features that offer another layer of security."

The survey also revealed consumers with children in their household are more likely to rely on memory than those without children at home (71 percent versus 59 percent). Only eight percent of those surveyed said they use a password manager product.

Males age 34-44 are the most likely to report using a product (17 percent), significantly higher than males either 18-34, who may not have as many passwords to manage yet, or 45-54, who may not be as immersed in technology.

Differences also exist by household income, with wealthier individuals more likely to use a product. Married couples also are more likely to use a product since they might have more accounts to manage than those who are not.

"While there is a growing trend toward biometrics, we will not see the complete disappearance of passwords anytime soon," Wise said. "As our survey shows, most consumers remain reluctant to adopt technologies they are not familiar with. Password managers allow consumers to utilize recognizable forms of security, while remaining confident they are taking all the steps necessary to fully protect themselves."

He also noted awareness around the importance of personal security has grown with the proliferation of breaches affecting consumer brands and sites. Every day more and more consumers are waking up to the fact they need to take back control of their security, but many aren’t quite sure where to start.