According to new research conducted by Centrify Corporation (a leader in unified identity management across data centre, cloud and mobile platforms), poor password habits are not only placing employers at risk but also losing them hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost productivity every year.
The survey of 1,000 UK workers highlights that the average employee wastes £2611 each year in company time on trying to manage multiple passwords. For an organisation with 500 staff on the payroll, that equates to a loss of more than £130,000 every 12 months.
“In our new digital lifestyles, which see a blurring of the lines between our personal and professional lives, we’re constantly having to juggle multiple passwords for everything from e-mail and mobile apps through to online shopping and social media,” explained Barry Scott, CTO (EMEA) for Centrify.
“According to the results of our extensive survey, over a quarter of us now enter a password online more than ten times each day, which could equate to 3,500 to 4,000 times every year. This is becoming a real challenge for employers who need to manage security and privacy concerns, and also for employees who are costing their companies both time and money.”
While around half (47%) of those employees questioned use their personal mobile devices for business purposes, one-in-three (34%) admit they don’t actually use passwords on these devices even though they keep office e-mail, confidential documents, customer contact information and budget details on them.
High on many people’s list of ‘most annoying things’, it seems that passwords are becoming the cause of major headaches. Centrify’s study reveals that forgetting a password for an online account is more annoying for individuals than misplacing their keys (39% of respondents), a mobile phone battery ceasing to work (37%) or receiving spam e-mail (31%).
One-in-six (16%) of respondents would rather sit next to someone talking loudly on their mobile phone, 13% would rather spend an hour on a customer service line and 12% would prefer to sit next to a crying baby on a flight than have to manage all of their passwords.
Multiple incorrect password entries
The Centrify research also shows:
• More than one-in-three (38%) employees have accounts they cannot access any more because they cannot remember the passwords
• 28% are locked out at least once a month due to multiple incorrect password entries
• One-in-five employees change their passwords at least once a month while 8% change them every week
• Most have little faith in password security – just 15% believe their passwords are ‘very secure’
With nearly half (42%) of respondents creating at least one new account profile every week – more than 50 per annum, in fact – the problems around password management will only worsen. In fact, 14% of employees quizzed believe they will have 100-plus passwords to deal with in the next five years.
Despite this, it’s believed that many employees already seriously underestimate the number of account profiles they have online, with nearly half (47%) believing they have just five profiles – although a quarter admit they harbour 21 or more.
Andy Kellett at analyst OVUM added: “When it comes to providing safe access to what should be highly secure business systems, the password model is no longer fit for purpose. It remains the primary security tool for businesses in environments where other authentication options should be considered. We used to go to work and stay in one place. Now we are just as likely to be working from a remote office, on the train or at home and simple passwords are neither robust nor secure enough to support secure remote access.”
Kellett added: “With today’s workforce also using social media and flexible remote tools and applications, we need to empower them to do this by allowing them to have more ownership of their identities and incorporate better, more balanced security measures that also improve productivity.”
Top 5 bad password practices
When asked what they do in order to remember their passwords, survey respondents stated that they:
(1) Always use the same password whenever possible
(2) Rotate through a variety of similar passwords
(3) Keep a written password in a master book of passwords
(4) Use personal information in a password
(5) Avoid using complicated symbols or combining upper and lower case
Top 5 password tips
To help employers, Centrify has complied a list of top tips on effective password management:
• Educate staff about using passwords – make it a key part of your corporate security policy
• Make it easier for employees to work anywhere, any time by using technology that offers single sign-on capabilities (ie one click to access all of their work accounts and applications)
• With some mobile phones now providing both identity and access management capabilities, incorporate them as part of your BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy
• Create one profile for any corporate log-ins and then have privileges for individual employees within the one profile. Anyone who leaves the company can be removed automatically
• Think about replacing passwords with something much more intuitive like pass phrases.
The Widmeyer survey was developed to assess people’s engagement with – and their perception of – passswords in order to determine their efficacy in the workplace. The survey was completed in September 2014 with more than 1,000 participants in the UK and 1,000 in North America. Results were similar across both regions. The final results can be found at: http://www.centrify.com/Password-Survey
1Figure calculated by taking an average of the hourly rate of personal income from one’s job multiplied by the amount of time spent dealing with password management