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SA users think passwords are of no value

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Approximately one fifth of users locally assume their passwords are of no value to cybercriminals, according to a survey conducted by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International.

However, passwords are the keys to the account holders’ personal data, private lives, and even their money – and if they are stolen, the consequences can affect not only individual users but also their contacts, warns Kaspersky Lab.

For example, a compromised e-mail gives scammers access to every account that the user has connected to it, thanks to the messages it receives notifying of successful registrations or responses to password recovery requests. In turn, a compromised account on a social networking site makes it possible to spread spam advertising and malicious links. A password to an account with an online store gives cybercriminals an opportunity to harvest financial data and spend other people’s money.

However, less than half (43%) of respondents in South Africa named passwords among the valuable information that they would not want to see in the hands of cybercriminals, while 20% of those surveyed locally saw no inherent value in their passwords for criminals.

The survey shows that users often take the easy way out when creating and storing their passwords. Only 24% of users create a separate password for each account while 4% of respondents use special password storage software. However, 18% of those surveyed write down their passwords in a notebook, 14% store them in a file on the device, and 5% leave them on a sticker near the computer. At the same time 19% of users freely share their personal account passwords with family members and friends.

Meanwhile, statistics show that password theft is a common occurrence. In 2014, according to Kaspersky Security Network figures, Kaspersky Lab products protected 3.5 million people from malicious attacks which were capable of stealing usernames and passwords to accounts of various types. 19% of local respondents reported that their accounts had been hacked during the year.

“Even if you are not a celebrity or a billionaire, cybercriminals can profit from your credentials,” says Peter Aleshkin, Consumer Marketing group Mmanager, Emerging Markets, Kaspersky Lab.

“A password is like a key to your home; you wouldn’t leave your door on the latch, or put your keys where anyone could find them, just because you don’t think you have anything of great value. Complex passwords unique to each account, carefully stored in a safe place, will save you a lot of trouble.”

To protect your account against unauthorised entry, you should follow a few simple rules:
* Create a unique password for each account: if one of them is stolen, the rest will remain safe.
* Create a complex password that won’t be easy to crack even using special programmes. That means at least eight symbols including upper and lower-case letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and no pet names or dates of birth.
* Do not give your password to anyone, not even your friends. If cybercriminals can’t steal it from your device, they might be able do it from someone else’s.
* Store your password in a safe place. Don’t write it down on paper; either remember it or use a special programme for storing passwords from a reliable vendor such as Kaspersky Password Manager, which is also integrated in Kaspersky Total Security – multi-device.