How much control do IT executives have over password security?

A new study from LastPass and Ovum reveals that despite the clear and present danger that weak passwords pose to organisations, many remain focused on implementing technology based on policy, not the user, to address the problem.

More than half of IT executives surveyed rely on employees alone to monitor their own password behaviour, subsequently leaving the company at risk, shining a light on the disconnect between IT policy and human behaviour.

The report, which surveyed hundreds of IT executives and corporate employees globally, found that 78% of IT executives lack the ability to control access to the cloud-based applications used by their employees. Most companies are aware of this lack of visibility and control, yet the majority are not doing enough, if anything at all, to address the situation.

>See also: The need for better password security

The study also revealed that 76% of employees say they experience regular password usage problems and more than a third of users need password-related help desk support at least once every month. At the same time, nearly three-quarters said they would want to use a tool to help store and access passwords without needing to remember each one if their company offered a solution.

Additionally, the study provides insights into how many organisations are leaving holes in their security, including:

• A lack of control puts excessive reliance on end users. 61% of IT executives surveyed rely exclusively on employee education to enforce strong passwords. Employees are essentially on their own, with no technology in place to enforce any password strength requirement.

• Outdated manual processes still prevail. IT executives at four in ten companies surveyed still rely on entirely manual processes to manage user passwords for cloud applications.

>See also: It’s time to get rid of the password for more secure protection

• Defence against password sharing is far too weak. When asked how they guard against unnecessary password sharing, 64% of IT execs surveyed had no technology in place, and only 14% had automated control facilities in place to know when it is happening.

• Weak password systems put users and businesses at risk. More than three-quarters of employees reported that they regularly have problems with password usage or management. Password usage problems are exacerbated by the lack of single sign-on (SSO) in many organisations. In fact, 56% of the organisations surveyed did not have SSO available.

“This research has clearly identified an urgent need to close the password security gap,” said Andrew Kellett, principal analyst, Infrastructure Solutions at Ovum. “Far too many organisations are leaving the responsibility for password management to their employees and don’t have the automated password management technology in place to identify when things are going wrong.”

>See also: Password ignorance will lead to cyber attacks

“In many cases, an organisation’s password management practices are overly reliant on manual processes and far too often place an excessive level of trust in employees to use safe password practices,” added Matt Kaplan, GM of LastPass.

“The threat posed by human behaviour coupled with the absence of technology to underpin policy is leaving companies unnecessarily at risk from weak or shared passwords. Organisations need to focus on solving for both obstacles in order to significantly improve their overall security.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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