Passwords are the weakest link in online security

A ZoneAlarm survey showed that 79% of consumers use risky password construction practices, such as including personal information and words.

The survey also revealed that 26% of respondents reuse the same password for important accounts such as email, banking or shopping and social networking sites.

In addition, as much as 8% admit to copying an entire password found online in a listing of “good” passwords. 29% of respondents had their own email or social network account hacked, and over half (52%) know someone who has had a similar problem.

The first thing a hacker will do to break into a computer or secure account is try and guess the victim’s password. Automated programs are also available to repeatedly guess passwords from a database of common words or other information.

The study also revealed that 22% of respondents had experienced email hacking and 46% know of others who experienced similar email problems.

Additionally, about 22% of respondents had experienced social network account hacking and 32% know others who have also had similar problem.

Once an attacker gains access to one account, almost 30% of the time that information can be used to access other sites that contain financial data such as bank account numbers and credit card information.

“Especially now, with online shopping on the rise this holiday season, consumers need to be aware of the importance of passwords and the fact that hackers are getting more and more sophisticated in cracking them,” said Bari Abdul, vice president of consumer sales at Check Point. “By creating a unique password for each important account, consumers create the first line of defense against online thieves who can’t wait to gain access to critical data for financial gain.”

To get more insight on how people create poor passwords, take a look at this analysis of 32 million breached passwords and read the tips for creating a strong password.

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