Aussie boomers could borrow a leaf from their elders on password hygiene

A string of cyber attacks has left 70% of Aussies less confident in their cybersecurity protection than 12 months ago, with two in five expecting to suffer a cyber breach in 2023, according to a study from Savanta and Palo Alto Networks, the next-gen security company. 

What were the findings of the study?

The study, which spoke to over 1,000 Aussies to understand their cyber security awareness, practices, and expectations also found that pets’ names still reigned supreme when it came to passwords. Pets’ names were the most common across all age, gender, income, and education, but some differences were identified with the second-most common items:

Cohort Second-most common password item
Baby Boomers Street name (past or present)
Generation X Mother’s maiden name
Generation Y Date of birth (self or spouse)
Generation Z Their own name

Australians loyal to their passwords

The study uncovered that half of all Aussies who have been targeted by a cyber attack use the same password across online accounts, while only 35% who have never been targeted use the same password across accounts. This indicates that using the same password across accounts may increase one’s chances of being breached by 15%. Additional findings include:

  • 39% of Australians only changed their passwords once a year or less
  • Men are 21% more likely to use different passwords than women
  • Baby Boomers practise the best password hygiene, and are 76% more likely to use different passwords across online accounts than Generation Z, who practise the worst password hygiene.

Most Australians ignoring in-built password managers

Only 37% of Australians use a password manager, however this number jumps to 49% for those targeted by a cyber attack, which indicates a positive behaviour change to protect themselves online. Both are relatively low, considering most modern devices come with in-built password managers, such as Apple’s iCloud Keychain and Google Password Manager.

The majority of men (62%) using a password manager trust that their information is protected, but the opposite is true of women, with only 45% of the survey respondents trusting that password managers will completely protect their information online.

Bait of origin

The majority of Australians (79%) believe unknown web addresses are the biggest threats online, with men being slightly more mistrustful of emails from unknown contacts, while women are most wary of link downloads. Only 15% believe smartphone apps pose a threat.

This may be due to the high penetration of Apple iPhones in Australia, which restrict app downloads to those from the official app store, and perhaps a preference among Android users to use the official Google Play app store. Malicious smartphone apps are amongst the most-used threat vectors by cyber criminals, targeting app stores on Android devices.

Fear factor

Personally identifiable information Aussies are most fearful of losing include bank and credit card details, online passwords and drivers licences. Aussies are least likely to fear their email addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth being lost in a data breach. This indicates Aussies have a solid understanding of which information is most valuable to cyber criminals