Teenage password security

Apr 26, 2013

Many of us are sharing increasing amounts of personal information through online social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others. However, according to Charlott Lorentzen, Markus Fiedler and Henric Johnson of the Blekinge Institute of Technology, School of Computing, in Karlskrona, Sweden, many of us are side-stepping apparently laborious security measures and putting our data at risk of being hijacked and used in identity theft and other fraud.

Writing in the International Journal of Communication Networks and Distributed Systems, the Swedish team points out that there are also more subtle risks associated with the carefree sharing of personal information, such as compromising situations potentially arising in both our private and professional lives should our data or the site on which it is hosted be accessed by malicious third parties.

At the forefront of the problem is the issue of using secure passwords. While no can ever be 100 percent secure, annual surveys reveal that far too many users rely on simplistic names, dates, anniversaries and even plain dictionary words, like "password", and strings of numbers "123456" as their passwords because it is easier to remember. This, of course, provides a false sense of security when accessing some sites in which a simple brute-force attack on logins would quickly and easily expose the weakness in such passwords.

The Swedish team has surveyed teenage users of social media sites, the so-called born after the initial emergence into the mainstream of the internet, mobile computing and sites. They surveyed two groups: one at a secondary school and compared their password use with staff members at a technology institute. They also asked the teenagers about their perception of online safety and risk. The passwords and attitudes of 67 male and 70 female teenagers were analysed and data correlated with the students studying commerce, hotel and restaurant, , and technology.

The team found that students on more technically oriented courses tended to have more sophisticated passwords, as one might expect, but few students used the same password for their Facebook and email accounts, which is a promising development compared with earlier surveys that showed many students use the same password on all systems. Previous surveys showed 75% of users duplicated passwords whereas the Swedish results suggest this is now about 40%. For staff at the Institute, duplication was 17%. "The order of magnitudes of all figures may suggest that many users do not prioritise their personal security on Facebook, and that more awareness would be needed to improve this situation," the team says.

"Our results indicate that bad password strategies may be 'taught away', or that there would be a point in having good password strategies and online safety taught in primary or secondary school to increase security awareness," the team concludes.

Explore further: Twitter blocks two accounts on its Turkish network

More information: "On user perception of safety in online social networks" in Int. J. Communication Networks and Distributed Systems, 2013, 11, 77-91.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Are you any good at creating passwords?

Jan 30, 2010

There's an interesting little study that's been done by security firm Imperva, which analyzed some 32 million passwords posted online in December by some enterprising hacker.

Password breach spreads beyond LinkedIn

Jun 07, 2012

More websites admitted security breaches Thursday after LinkedIn said some of its members' passwords were stolen, and experts warned of email scams targeting users of the social network. ...

Facebook adds 'app' passwords to site security

Oct 27, 2011

Facebook is ramping up security by giving people the option of setting passwords for games or other third-party applications added to pages at the leading online social network.

Recommended for you

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

Apr 18, 2014

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

Apr 18, 2014

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

White House updating online privacy policy

Apr 18, 2014

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Students take clot-buster for a spin

(Phys.org) —In the hands of some Rice University senior engineering students, a fishing rod is more than what it seems. For them, it's a way to help destroy blood clots that threaten lives.

First steps towards "Experimental Literature 2.0"

As part of a student's thesis, the Laboratory of Digital Humanities at EPFL has developed an application that aims at rearranging literary works by changing their chapter order. "The human simulation" a saga ...