Identity, Email security, Security Staff Acquisition & Development

Password security still an issue despite rising cybersecurity education

A woman is silhouetted against a projection of a password log-in dialog box.
Despite nearly two-thirds of respondents saying they've had some form of cybersecurity education, 62% said they almost always use the same password or a variation of it. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Cybersecurity education does not equate better password hygiene and can lead to a false sense of password security, according to a survey released this week.

In its fifth annual Psychology of Passwords survey, LastPass found that although 65% of the 3,750 respondents had some form of cybersecurity education, 62% almost always or mostly use the same or variation of a password.

“The findings highlighted a clear disconnect between high confidence when it comes to their password management and their unsafe actions," the firm said in a news release. "While the majority of professionals surveyed claimed to be confident in their current password management, this doesn’t translate to safer online behavior and can create a detrimental false sense of safety.”

Growing up in the digital age did not improve password mishaps for members of Gen Z or the Millennial generation. In fact, they were the biggest offenders of poor password hygiene, with 69% of Gen Z respondents using a variation of a single password, and Millennials following closely at 66%.

While nearly 9 in 10 respondents (89%) know that using the same password or a variation is a risk, only 12% said they use different passwords for different accounts and 62% said they always or mostly use the same password or some variation.

And despite 65% of respondents having some form of cybersecurity education, fewer than a third (31%) stopped reusing the same passwords and only a quarter started using a password manager.

Different online accounts elicited different responses, however. Most respondents (69%) said they would create a stronger password for their financial accounts, and 52% would use more complex passwords for email. But the percentage of respondents fell below 50% for accounts for:

  • Medical and health records (35%)
  • Work-related accounts (33%)
  • Social media (32%)
  • Retail/shopping (18%)
  • Entertainment accounts such as Netflix (14%)
  • I choose/create a password the same way regardless of the type of account (13%)
  • Travel/airline (8%)

“Our latest research showcases that even in the face of a pandemic, where we spent more time online amid rising cyberattacks, there continues to be a disconnect for people when it comes to protecting their digital lives,” said Christofer Hoff, chief secure technology officer for LastPass. “The reality is that even though nearly two-thirds of respondents have some form of cybersecurity education, it is not being put into practice for varying reasons. For both consumers and businesses, a password manager is a simple step to keep your accounts safe and secure.”

Stephen Weigand

Stephen Weigand is managing editor and production manager for SC Media. He has worked for news media in Washington, D.C., covering military and defense issues, as well as federal IT. He is based in the Seattle area.

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