Does poor password hygiene still hamper your ability to achieve high security standards?

While more businesses are investing in security measures like multifactor authentication (MFA), employees still have poor password habits that weaken companies’ overall security posture, according to LastPass.

poor password hygiene

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.

“Securing employee access has never been more important and unfortunately, we see businesses ignore password security altogether, or only half-heartedly attempt to address it,” said Gerald Beuchelt, CISO at LogMeIn. “This report further highlights the importance of using the identity and access management tools available to information security managers in addition to maintaining focus on employee training to improve password habits.”

The password struggle is real

Password sharing and reuse remains a common practice in most businesses, with employees reusing one password an average of 13 times.

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 organisations. An overwhelming number of passwords leads to poor password hygiene when there’s no technology in place to help.

Research 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

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 MFA 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 organisations have the highest usage – 87 percent – which drops nearly in half (to 44 percent) at organisations 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.

poor password hygiene

Industry differences

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 that 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% to 29% in a 12-month period.

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