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We don’t protect our data, but punish companies when they don’t either.

3 minute read

Experts say the average person has 150 passwords these days. With so many to remember, we reuse them to make it easy — but it’s also easier to hack your data that way.

But when a business doesn’t protect our data, we boycott and publicly shame them online, says a study from data storage company Veritas.

“Trust in businesses has been eroded by breaches and high-profile cases where firms have shown a lack of understanding of how the consumer data they hold is used or shared,” says Veritas executive Tamzin Evershed. “As consumers demand more transparency and accountability from businesses, the ‘new norm’ will see consumers rewarding those organizations that have good data hygiene practices in place while punishing those that don’t.”

Tarred and feathered over data

Veritas polled 12,500 people across the globe. It found that following well-publicized data breach cases like Cambridge Analytica, and now strict data regulations enforced with the General Protection Data Regulation, most people plan to hold businesses accountable for their data usage. And this is what they’re concerned about…

  • How their data is protected: 92 percent
  • Not knowing how companies use their data: 40 percent
  • That their data will be stolen: 21 percent

This is what people say they’ll do if companies fail to protect their data…

  • Will stop buying from them: 62 percent
  • Are going to purchase from their competitor: 48 percent
  • Will tell friends and family to boycott them: 81 percent
  • Plan to report companies to regulators: 74 percent
  • Are going to post negative comments online: 65 percent

Of course, if companies do right by handling their data, customers plan to reward them. Fifty-nine percent plan to spend more money on businesses they trust. And 27 percent are willing to increase their spending at those companies by a fourth.

“In light of recent events and changes in the law, consumers need much more reassurance when it comes to what personal data companies hold on them, and how it is shared and used,” Evershed says. “This could have significant implications for businesses that rely on collecting consumer data.”

Thirty-eight percent of consumers feel businesses don’t know how to protect their data. And maybe they should blame the company, but what about the workers? Most actually protect sensitive information more than company policies say they should.

Good password habits at work

Two-thirds (64 percent) of workers use a “company-approved” device for work. But only 40 percent are actually regulated by the company when using that device, says a study from review and rating company Clutch.

Further showing workers care about data protection, 76 percent protect their passwords at work. Only 59 percent of employees had to go through cybersecurity training at their company, but 60 percent have reported a security breach. This shows that workers understand security threats and how to deal with them without following company policy, the study says.

Still, the study also finds that workers display “good” password protection, but only the minimum. Eighty-two percent update their passwords regularly, but only 41 percent use a password protection method like multi-factor authentication, or a password manager (20 percent).

These workers may unknowingly have weak password protection, according to new research.

Weird password habits at home

Password protection company Dashlane analyzed 61 million passwords with research provided by a professor from Virginia Tech. Computer science professor Gang Wang, Ph. D., noted people are likely to use popular bands, and brands — and even curse words — for passwords. These are the kind of passwords people create that are too easy for hackers to guess…

  • iloveyou
  • f*ckyou
  • a**hole
  • f*ckoff
  • iloveme

Or some pop culture references…

  • superman
  • pokemon
  • slipknot
  • starwars
  • metallica

“It is difficult for humans to memorize unique passwords for the 150+ accounts the average person has,” Wang says. “Inevitably, people reuse or slightly modify them, which is a dangerous practice. This danger has been amplified by the massive data breaches which have given attackers more effective tools for guessing and hacking passwords.”

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About the Author

Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Joe Pye is a certified debt management professional. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Florida Atlantic University’s student-run newspaper, the University Press. He was a finalist for the Mark of Excellence award by the Society of Professional Journalists Region 3 for feature writing and in-depth reporting. He now covers personal finance topics for uncovering trends that help readers deal with the financial world. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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