Study: 3 in 4 Users Required a Reset of a Forgotten Password in the Last 90 Days

December 17, 2019 @ 11:50 AM
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2 min read

A new study found that most users required a password reset in the last 90 days due to a forgotten password.

In its “Password Usage Study,” HYPR found that 78 percent of full-time workers across the U.S. and Canada required a reset of a forgotten password in their personal life at some point in the last three months. The rate was slightly lower for work-related resets at 57 percent of respondents.

HYPR arrived at these findings despite observing that most survey participants used either a physical or digital list to manage their passwords. Overall, HYPR found that close to two-thirds (65 percent) of U.S. full-time workers used some type of list to manage their passwords for their personal lives. Slightly fewer than that (58 percent) used a list to keep track of their work-related passwords.

Why Are People Forgetting Their Passwords?

As part of its study, HYPR determined that many users are suffering from password overload. Thirty-seven percent of survey participants told the firm that they have over 20 passwords in their personal lives, for instance. Nineteen percent said they had over 10 passwords in their work lives.

Even so, the authentication technology provider observed that respondents hadn’t taken the proper steps to reduce the occurrence of a forgotten password. It specifically noted that many workers were not using password management software at the time of questioning due to a lack of awareness, certainty or trust with how these solutions work. As a result, many workers still relied on their memories to recall their authentication credentials.

These conclusions weren’t singular to HYPR’s study. Back in September 2018, for instance, Rutgers University-New Brunswick conducted a study in which human memory appeared to adapt to and remember passwords based upon their frequency of use. This result tied into a December 2018 survey finding from Digital Guardian that a quarter of users could not count the number of web accounts in their lives that required a password. It’s therefore no surprise that 83 percent of respondents told Cyclonis in a separate study that they reused the same password across multiple sites. Such behavior elevated the likelihood of a password reuse attack in the event that a data breach affected any one of those sites.

How to Help Eliminate the Forgotten Password

Security professionals can help eliminate the risks associated with a forgotten password by not leaving password management up to users. Companies should make it a policy for users to embrace password managers. Beyond that, security teams should also invest in frequent penetration testing and security awareness training to strengthen users’ defenses against phishers and social engineering attacks.

David Bisson
Contributing Editor

David Bisson is an infosec news junkie and security journalist. He works as Contributing Editor for Graham Cluley Security News and Associate Editor for Trip...
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