Password Exploitation – 83% of Americans Are At Risk

Let’s face it: most of us follow terrible password security procedures. Do you use the same password for more than one website? Or are you one of the 23 million people who use “123456” as one of their passwords? The truth is, 83% of Americans are using weak passwords (Avast), even as the threat of account hacking climbs every day.

In January 2019, the “Collection 1-5” data breach exposed 2.2 billion unique emails and passwords, and in the first six months of 2019, there were a total of 4.1 billion records exposed worldwide. When data breaches like this happen, account holders are exposed to the risk of having their personal data, money, or identity stolen by hackers. In fact, 81% of hacking-related data breaches was caused by password exploitation (Verizon). With more organizations moving their operations to the cloud—and with the average business having 23 apps that require passwords—the risk of data exposure is higher than ever.

With nearly 300 billion passwords being used by people and computers worldwide, long or complex passwords no longer provide enough security, and users rarely follow best practices for secure passwords. Two-factor authentication—in which users need to enter a password plus additional identifying information—was created to increase the security of even weak passwords, but adoption is slow, even in the IT field. The Ponemon Institute found that 55% of IT security professionals don’t use two-factor authentication at their organization, and LastPass found that only 15% of IT administrators enforce the use of multi-factor authentication. The resistance comes mainly from users who find it unnecessarily burdensome to keep track of multiple passwords or authentication procedures.

This lack of adherence to password security best-practices is turning costly for businesses. In addition to the obvious losses in revenue a company might face during a data breach, DataProt reports that 33% of people stop doing business with companies who experience a data breach that leaks consumer credentials. With password exploitation posing such a threat to their bottom line, many organizations are prioritizing IT security positions to mitigate their risk. In fact, 82% of companies say they lack the necessary security skills in their organization.

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