Employees’ poor password habits remain a key obstacle to business security
- Published: Friday, 11 October 2019 09:09
LastPass by LogMeIn has released the results of its 3rd Annual Global Password Security Report, a study that offers insights into employee password activities as well as emerging trends around identity and access management in businesses worldwide.
Among the key findings from this year’s report is that while more businesses are investing in security measures like multifactor authentication (MFA), employees still have poor password habits that weaken companies’ overall security posture. Given that stolen and reused credentials are linked to 80 percent of hacking-related breaches, businesses must take more action to improve password and access security to make a big impact on risk reduction.
Additional key findings from the report include:
The password struggle is real, especially for employees at small businesses
Password sharing and reuse remains a common practice in most businesses, with employees reusing one password an average of 13 times. Report data shows that employees at businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees reuse 10-14 passwords compared to four reused passwords among employees at larger organizations. An overwhelming number of passwords leads to poor password hygiene when there’s no technology in place to help. Study data shows employees at larger companies have an average of 25 passwords to manage compared to 85 passwords for those at small business. Due to greater availability of resources and awareness of regulations, larger businesses may be more likely to have Single Sign-On solutions in place that enable employees to access more apps with fewer passwords. However, less than 50 percent of all businesses have a Single Sign-On (SSO) solution that could make it easier for employees to manage passwords.
Multifactor authentication usage is on the rise, but small business lags
More than half of businesses globally (57 percent) now have employees using multifactor authentication (MFA), up 12 percentage points from last year’s report. As multifactor authentication options continue to improve in usability and support for a wide range of use cases, we continue to see usage increase. Unsurprisingly, employees at larger organizations have the highest usage – 87 percent – which drops nearly in half (to 44 percent) at organizations with approximately 500-1,000 employees, and less than a third (27 percent) at the smallest businesses. Given the competing priorities of IT staff at smaller businesses, it’s understandable that MFA may not be a priority. However, given the number of affordable, user-friendly options available, every business should be able to find an MFA solution that meets their needs.
Industry differences: media/advertising are inundated with passwords
In terms of industry, media/advertising agency employees have the most passwords to manage (97), whereas government employees have the least (54). It’s no surprise that employees in the media and advertising sector also have the highest rate of password reuse – 22 – compared to just nine in the nonprofit and retail sectors. No amount of password reuse is safe, but some sectors have a lot more work to do. When it comes to MFA, industries with the most sensitive customer data, like insurance and legal, are the least likely to have employees using MFA (20 percent usage for each compared to the high of 37 percent in the technology and software industries).
Increased international regulation spurs action in EMEA and APAC
As global threats rise, and concerns grow about the privacy of personal information, governments and industries are enacting more regulations, directives and guidelines in order to help protect the digital economy. GDPR may contribute to signiﬁcant growth in adoption of MFA in countries like Denmark (46 percent), the Netherlands (41 percent), Switzerland (38 percent) and Germany (32 percent). The NDB scheme may contribute to Australia’s multifactor authentication usage growing from 6 percent to 29 percent in a 12-month period.