A survey of 576 office workers in central London found that women are far more likely to give away their computer passwords to total strangers than their male counterparts, with 45 per cent of women versus ten per cent of men prepared to give away their login credentials to strangers masquerading as market researchers.
The survey, conducted outside Liverpool Street Station in the City of London, was actually part of a social engineering exercise to raise awareness about information security in the run-up to next week’s Infosec Europe conference.
Infosec has conducted similar surveys every year for at least the last five years involving punters apparently handing over login credentials in exchange for free pens or chocolate rewards.
Little attempt is made to verify the authenticity of the passwords, beyond follow-up questions asking what category it falls under. So we don’t know whether women responding to the survey filled in any old rubbish in return for a choccy treat or handed out their real passwords.
This year’s survey results were significantly better than previous years. In 2007, 64 per cent of people were prepared to give away their passwords for a chocolate bar, a figure that dropped 21 per cent this time around.
So either people are getting more security-aware or more weight-conscious. And with half the respondents stating that they used the same passwords at home and work, then perhaps the latter is more likely.
Taken in isolation the password findings might suggest the high-profile HMRC data loss debacle had increased awareness about information security. However, continued willingness to hand over personal information that could be useful to ID fraudsters suggests otherwise.
The bogus researchers also asked for workers’ names and telephone numbers, ostensibly so they could be entered into a draw to go to Paris. With this incentive 60 per cent of men and 62 per cent of women handed over their contact information. A similar percentage (61 per cent) were happy to hand over their dates of birth. ®