Bad email habits are putting people at risk, recent Experian survey shows

Authored by James Jones.
3 min read
business owner adjusting dials machinery
Having the same password for your email as many of your other online accounts can put you and your business at risk, warns James Jones, Head of Consumer Affairs at Experian…

The concept that using ‘password123’ is not the best option is slowly filtering through the national consciousness but are any of us really savvy enough with our passwords?

Bad email habits can put you and your business at risk

There’s a danger that many of us continue to put ourselves, our finances, and – for SMEs – our reputations, at risk through our email habits.

A new survey we’ve undertaken with Cyber Aware (external link) reveals that more than half of respondents (52%) aged 18-25 and a quarter (27%) from all age groups reuse their email password across multiple accounts.

More worryingly, over three quarters (79%) of all Brits surveyed with an email account have sent personal information – such as their address or bank details – over email. Of those, 52% have still got bank or credit card details in their sent items. This is worrying.

The reason this is an issue is that a weak password can give hackers easy access to this ‘treasure trove’ of information.

Once an email account has been breached, it can also be used to hijack many other personal accounts by asking for passwords to be reset.

This then opens up access to other personal information and, in some cases, existing accounts, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.

Attitudes to password safety vary by age, research shows

So why do we do it? And why is there such an age differential at play? Experian research shows that attitudes to online safety varies significantly by age.

Younger people tend to be more driven by convenience and rarely have more than five unique passwords.

They are also far more likely to log in to multiple accounts using a single social media account. But what they may not realise is that this thirst for convenience leaves them more vulnerable to identity theft.

We’ve certainly seen a sharp increase in the number of fraud cases affecting this younger 18-25 age group.

Despite many people saying they do worry about cyber security, taking positive action is often bottom of the list for them – only a worrying 8% of those surveyed wanted to improve their cyber security.

In partnering with the Government’s Cyber Aware programme on the #OneReset campaign, we’re aiming to highlight how people’s email passwords are leaving their accounts wide open to hackers, and encouraging them to consider adding a simple ‘cyber reset’ to their existing list of life changes.

Password and credit status tips

The good news is that it’s simple to take effective action by following the advice set out by Cyber Aware. A great first step to help protect yourself (and also your business) online is to choose a strong and separate password for your email account or accounts.

Tips for a strong email password include using three random words along with numbers and other characters.

Where available, using two-factor authentication on your email account adds another layer of security.

Regularly reviewing your credit status is another sensible way of protecting your identity. That way, if fraud is attempted you’re likely to be able to spot it and raise the alarm very quickly. You can meet your ’Data Self’ with Experian and monitor your credit score for free (external link). Taking these steps can reduce your risk of becoming a cyber-crime statistic.

For advice on simple ways to help keep your personal details secure online, visit Cyber Aware (external link).

Find out more about our Hiscox cyber and data risks insurance.

At Hiscox, we want to help your small business thrive. Our blog has many articles you may find relevant and useful as your business grows. But these articles aren’t professional advice. So, to find out more on a subject we cover here, please seek professional assistance.

James Jones

James Jones leads Experian’s national consumer education programme, advising on topics such as credit and identity fraud.