Why Americans Are 'Password Challenged'

A new Pew Research Center report finds that 39 percent of online adults report having a hard time keeping track of their passwords, making them "password challenged." Compared with the 60 percent of online adults who do not express difficulties keeping up with their passwords, this “password challenged” group also tends to be more worried over the safety and security of their passwords. Those who do find password management difficult are twice as likely as those who do not to report worrying about the security of their passwords (44 percent vs. 22 percent).

According to the Pew Research Center, the findings connect to a broader discussion of cybersecurity and the role of key institutions in digital privacy. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults have fallen victim to some type of data theft or fraud, and many have little or no confidence at key institutions, like government agencies or social media companies, can keep their personal data safe and secure, according to Pew Research Center survey data.

Despite these experiences and concerns, the study found that many Americans are not following digital security best practices in their own personal lives, and this is especially true among those who are “password challenged.” For example, they are more likely to say they use passwords that are less secure because complicated ones are too hard to remember (41 percent vs. 14 percent among those comfortable with managing passwords) and say they use the same or similar passwords across multiple websites (45 percent vs. 36 percent).

These “password challenged” internet users are also more likely to keep track of their passwords by writing them down on a piece of paper, saving them in a digital note or by saving them in their web browser—all things that are considered less desirable practices among cybersecurity experts.

Age factors somewhat into whether or not people have difficulty managing their passwords, with this sentiment being most common among those in their early 30s through mid-60s: 44 percent of online adults ages 30 to 64 say they have a hard time keeping track of their passwords. In comparison, 33 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 and 30 percent of those 65 say they have a hard time keeping track of passwords.

SIA's Take: It's time to kill the password. They are not secure and Americans are too lazy to change them, despite being hacked. Advancements in biometrics approaches are a viable solution to the password problem because they recognize us, not memorized strings of text.

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