Passwords turn into major pain

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Passwords turn into major pain

On July 15, Baek Ji-yeon, a 27-year-old office worker, had to skip lunch to go to the bank on an urgent errand. She waited her turn for about an hour, ID card in hand.

Baek recently updated the bank’s application on her smartphone and had to sign into her account.

She could not remember her password and entered five wrong ones, which automatically blocked access to her account. She had to go to the bank in person to clear up the mess.

“I entered my usual password with different variations but it kept showing an error message,” Baek sighed. “I had no choice but to come to the bank. That’s the only way to change a password for a locked account.

“Websites often ask me to change my password,” she added. “It’s no wonder we are constantly confused.”

In today’s online and mobile world, you cannot live without passwords, but it is not easy living with them either.

When the JoongAng Ilbo asked 100 adults about their online and app passwords, 21 percent of the respondents answered that they are changing passwords at least four times a month, which means they change at least one password a week.

The biggest burden is that different sites or apps require passwords of different sizes.

Web portal Naver, for example, requires a password of six characters or more, while web portal Daum demands eight or more.

In the survey, 78 percent of respondents said they were using three or more passwords.

It gets even more complicated if a website requires capital letters, numbers or special characters, like online shopping malls such as Interpark and Gmarket, authentication certificates for financial institutions and bank applications.

“I need multiple password combinations because one website requires capital letters and another asks for special characters,” said Jang Hee-mun, a 52-year-old homemaker.

“I got so confused that I wrote all the IDs and passwords on a smartphone notepad,” she added ? a risky solution if her phone ever gets stolen.

Of the respondents, 76.5 percent said that they changed the first letter of a password into a capital letter when capitals are required and put an exclamation mark if special characters are required.

The hassle of having to reset passwords has produced new terminology such as “password syndrome” or “digital dementia.”

In the survey, 80.4 percent of respondents said they reset a password one to three times a month because they have forgotten them.

Resetting passwords sometimes takes a while, giving even more stress to users.

“If I enter wrong passwords a few times, I need to download a security program,” said Lee Hyeong-hun, 30, who runs his own business.

“It takes about 10 minutes to download and install those programs and some of them don’t even work on smartphones.”

Analysts say the situation has gotten worse since the country had a few massive personal information leakages including a hacking into NH Bank’s network in March 2013.

“Companies running websites are more worried about personal information leakage after hacking incidents and following class action suits,” said Son Yeong-dong, a professor of information security at Korea University.

“The companies are shifting their responsibilities to users and causing all sorts of hassles rather than strengthening security measures.”

“Currently, the safest thing for users is to manage multiple sets of passwords,” said Park Hyeon-ju, president of the security solution company Mcurix, “although it’s inconvenient.”

BY CHO HYE-KYUNG [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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