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comment PASSWORD APATHY - BUT WHO'S MOST TO BLAME? It would appear that many leading websites, including Amazon and Wikipedia, are failing to support users with advice on how to securely protect their data. More than a decade after first examining the issue, research by the University of Plymouth has shown most of the top 10 English-speaking websites offer little or no advice guidance on creating passwords that are less likely to be hacked. Some still allow people to use the word 'password', while others will allow single-character passwords and basic words, including a person's surname or a repeat of their user identity. Professor of information security, Steve Furnell, conducted the research, having carried out similar assessments in 2007, 2011 and 2014. He said it was concerning that, more than a decade after the issue was first highlighted, companies were not doing more to aid consumers amid the increased threat of global cyber-attacks. "We keep hearing that passwords are a thing of the past," commented Furnell, director of the University's Centre for Security, Communications and Network Research (CSCAN). "But, despite the prospect of new technologies coming into force, they are still the predominant protection people can use when setting up online accounts. With personal data now being guarded more closely than ever, providing clear and upfront guidance would seem a basic means through which to ensure users can be confident that the information they are providing is both safe and secure." The best provisions, taking into account permitted password length and other restrictions, were offered by Google, Microsoft Live and Yahoo which were also the top three sites when the last assessment was carried out in 2014. The three least favourable sets of results were from Amazon, Reddit and Wikipedia, with Amazon's password requirements remaining the most liberal, in line with the previous assessments. "The increased availability of two-step verification and two-factor authentication options is positive. But users arguably require more encouragement or obligation to use them, otherwise, like passwords themselves, they will offer the potential for protection, while falling short of doing so in practice." It's a sad state of affairs when individuals and organisations have to be hand-held to such a degree when it comes to being safe and secure. Where is the impetus and awareness that should be underpinning their on-line activities? It seems harsh to point the finger of blame at the websites named and shamed, without pointing another finger at the users who so wilfully fail to protect themselves. Brian Wall Editor Computing Security brian.wall@btc.co.uk EDITOR: Brian Wall (brian.wall@btc.co.uk) PRODUCTION: Abby Penn (abby.penn@btc.co.uk) LAYOUT/DESIGN: Ian Collis (ian.collis@btc.co.uk) SALES: Edward O’Connor (edward.oconnor@btc.co.uk) + 44 (0)1689 616 000 Louise Hollingdale (louise.hollingdale@btc.co.uk) + 44 (0)1689 616 000 PUBLISHER: John Jageurs (john.jageurs@btc.co.uk) Published by Barrow & Thompkins Connexions Ltd (BTC) 35 Station Square, Petts Wood, Kent, BR5 1LZ Tel: +44 (0)1689 616 000 Fax: +44 (0)1689 82 66 22 SUBSCRIPTIONS: UK: £35/year, £60/two years, £80/three years; Europe: £48/year, £85/two years, £127/three years R.O.W:£62/year, £115/two years, £168/three years Single copies can be bought for £8.50 (includes postage & packaging). Published 6 times a year. © 2018 Barrow & Thompkins Connexions Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of the magazine may be reproduced without prior consent, in writing, from the publisher. www.computingsecurity.co.uk July/August 2018 computing security @CSMagAndAwards 3