The trouble with relying on passwords for security

One of the key features of the new Apple iPhone 5S is the fingerprint sensor built into the home button. This allows users to unlock the device, and even authorize iTunes purchases, simply by pressing a digit against the laser cut sapphire crystal. So now when someone steals your phone, they’ll have to also steal one of your fingers at the same time.

It’s another attempt to replace the password and PIN, and we’ve seen a few of those over the years. Windows 8 even lets you sign in using a picture as an alternative. But the truth is, as exciting as fingerprint scanners and other forms of futuristic security measures seem, the password is here to stay for a while yet. And that’s a problem.

As Christine Bevilacqua at Ping Identity points out, passwords are rarely strong enough to keep out the really determined snoopers: "Just last week, it was a phished password that took down the venerable New York Times. And a popular password-cracking tool available on the Internet was upgraded so it could decrypt up to 55-character passwords -- so what protection do we really have?"

To highlight the problem, Ping -- which specializes in protecting identities -- has created an infographic that illustrates the issue of password security and how our frequent use of mobile devices and multiple passwords can be putting us, and our companies, at risk.

It also shows what other solutions are available and how people will approach password protection in the future.

There are some interesting stats there -- 62 percent of us reuse passwords across multiple sites, 54 percent of us use five or even fewer passwords, and 44 percent of users change their passwords just once per year. As a result, 21 percent of people admit to having had online accounts compromised.

How seriously do you take your online security? Have you had any password-related problems?

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