Password Security, by the Numbers

August 27, 2016

In the last few years it’s become clear that words like “cybersecurity” and “cyber attacks” are no longer just buzzwords, but have become cultural norms with record-high numbers over the last two years. After headline breaches such as Target and Ashley Madison, companies are coming to terms with the impact these attacks have on their bottom line.

With cybersecurity taking on new urgency, Wakefield issued a survey commissioned by SecureAuth in order to gauge current security strategies and pain points. This survey of more than 200 IT security professionals in the U.S., explores organizational cybersecurity spend, and attitudes towards both the traditional password and password alternatives. The survey dives into what keeps IT professionals up at night, highlighting market pressures that tend to get in the way of prioritizing proactive cybersecurity. Additionally, the results shed light on barriers organizations face in protecting critical data and infrastructure.

The largest statistic of the survey states that 95% of respondents believe their companies will increase security spending in the next year. Of that number, nearly half (44%) expect to do so by more than 20%. This can be explained when you consider that 59% of professionals surveyed said their company experienced a data breach in the last 12 months.

With those types of numbers, it is easy to see why cyber attacks have become a cultural norm. The good news? Organizations are exploring alternative authentication methods since traditional security measures (like username and password) are no longer strong enough. Organizations such as Amazon, eBay and the Office of Personnel Management OPM can speak to the gravity of stolen credentials as seen by their headline databreaches. Needless to say, skepticism about passwords is real – as evidenced by the 91% of cybersecurity professionals who believe traditional password will not exist in ten years.

Challenging the security status quo doesn’t mean this change will happen overnight. Even though respondents expressed faith in new methods of authentication, many still haven’t made the jump. According to the survey findings, more than 1 in 3 (34%) of cybersecurity pros work for companies that do not utilize authentication methods beyond passwords. Some of this may be chalked up to a business environment that tends to reward crowd-pleasing, quick to market products - even if they are insecure. There also remains the perception that security solutions negatively impact employee productivity, with 87% of respondents reporting their company is frequently forced to choose between user experience and greater security.

What else might be responsible for driving the exploration of new authentication technologies? Password recall.

Industry experts also recognize challenges accompanying traditional passwords. In a recent ZDNet article, John Fontana discussed how cyber attacks over the past few years have called into question the effectiveness of passwords. As seen with the recent LastPass cyber attack, cybersecurity techniques are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Cybercriminals now use advanced malware and phishing techniques to fool users into handing over their passwords, email or personal identifiable information (PII).

Fortunately, organizations looking to move beyond single-factor authentication have a wealth of alternatives at their disposal. 97% of survey respondents believe new authentication techniques are reliable (such as fingerprint scans or Two-Factor Authentication) leaving hope for the new cultural norm of headline data breaches to become less common.

Companies must be proactive about combatting compromised credentials and emerging threats. For more information on our survey findings, visit our news page. To find out more about SecureAuth™ IdP, request a demo or investigate how SecureAuth has helped other organizations determine identities with confidence,

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