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Americans are Careless with Passwords

HSB Survey Shows Passcodes Kept on Sticky Notes, Recipe Cards and Slips of Paper


Password management. Weak and strong password.
© Getty Images

How many different passwords do you have for your smartphone, tablet or computer? Where do you keep the passcodes that you can’t remember?

Almost half of U.S. consumers use one to five passwords to access all of their online applications, a survey by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB), part of Munich Re, has found, indicating many people use the same password for different accounts.

As for how Americans store the passcodes they need to access a growing number of banking, retail, social media and business applications, it’s much more likely they will use a sticky note than a secured password management app, the study concludes.

“The survey also shows one out of three consumers was hacked in the past,” said Timothy Zeilman, vice president for HSB, a leading provider of cyber insurance and services. “That rate should be falling faster and part of the problem is carelessness with passwords and personal security.”

Think of all the online accounts and applications that require a user name and password.

Yet, the survey, conducted for HSB by Zogby Analytics, showed 44 percent of consumers use only one to five passwords and 23 percent use six to ten passwords. That suggests they probably reuse the same password for multiple accounts, a threat to security, Zeilman said.

Another 11 percent used 11 to 20 passwords; nine percent used 21 to 50 passwords and four percent used more than 50 passwords. One percent of respondents said they don’t use any password and others didn’t know or weren’t sure.

When asked how they store their passwords, only 16 percent said they used a password organizer app. Many people stored passwords as notes on their smartphones, in computer documents, notebooks and planners, on slips of paper, or saved in emails they send to themselves.

One respondent said she kept her passwords on recipe cards and a business owner said, “The ‘universal’ passwords that are used by everyone in my company are written down” for anyone to view.

Instead, passwords should be strong and stored in a secure or encrypted location. Better yet, use passphrases, choosing random common words that don’t occur together in everyday speech, Zeilman said.

The HSB consumer survey also found that 32 percent of consumers had experienced a cyber attack in the previous 12 months, down from 37 percent in a similar HSB survey released in 2016.

The most common type of damage (81 percent) was a computer virus or other type of unwanted software, up from 69 percent in the previous survey.

Note for the editorial staff

For further questions please contact
Dennis Milewski
Dennis Milewski
Media Relations, HSB


Survey Methodology - Zogby Analytics was commissioned by Hartford Steam Boiler to conduct an online survey of 1,551 adults in the United States. Based on a confidence interval of 95 percent, the margin for error was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, meaning all other things being equal, the identical survey repeated will have results within the margin of error 95 times out of 100.

Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB), a member of Munich Re’s Risk Solutions family since 2009, is a leading specialty insurer providing equipment breakdown, other specialty coverages, inspection services and engineering-based risk management that set the standard for excellence worldwide. We focus on clients and partner with them to craft inventive insurance and service solutions to cover existing and emerging risks posed by technological change. Today, as throughout our 150 year history, our mission is to use our engineering knowledge and insights to help clients prevent loss, advance sustainable use of energy resources and build deeper relationships that benefit business, industry, public institutions and consumers. HSB holds A.M. Best Company’s highest financial rating, A++ (Superior). For more information, visit www.hsb.com and connect on LinkedInTwitter and Facebook.

Munich Re stands for exceptional solution-based expertise, consistent risk management, financial stability and client proximity. This is how Munich Re creates value for clients, shareholders and staff. In the financial year 2017, the Group – which combines primary insurance and reinsurance under one roof – achieved a profit of €0.4bn. It operates in all lines of insurance, with over 42,000 employees throughout the world. With premium income of around €32bn from reinsurance alone, it is one of the world’s leading reinsurers. Especially when clients require solutions for complex risks, Munich Re is a much sought-after risk carrier. Its primary insurance operations are concentrated mainly in ERGO, one of the leading insurance groups in Germany and Europe. ERGO is represented in over 30 countries worldwide and offers a comprehensive range of insurances, provision products and services. In 2017, ERGO posted premium income of €17.5bn. Munich Re’s global investments (excluding insurance-related investments) amounting to €218bn are managed by MEAG, which also makes its competence available to private and institutional investors outside the Group.

Zogby Analytics is an international research firm, providing clients with information and knowledge critical for making informed strategic decisions since 1984. The firm conducts multi-phased opinion research with state-of-the-art opinion research capabilities and objective analysis and consultation for banking and financial services institutions, insurance companies, hospitals and medical centers, retailers and developers, religious institutions, cultural organizations, colleges and universities, IT companies and federal agencies.

Hartford, Connecticut, April 26, 2018

The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company
One State Street
P.O. Box 5024
Hartford, Connecticut 06102-5024
United States