Survey: Women looser with their passwords than men

Nearly half of the ladies surveyed were willing to give up their passwords in return for candy.

By Farhad Manjoo

Published April 17, 2008 8:13PM (EDT)

Organizers of Infosecurity Europe, an annual tech conference, conducted a dispiriting experiment in which they offered office workers at a London train station free candy in return for their computer passwords.

Overall, 21 percent of the respondents were prepared to give up their passwords, which was an improvement from a survey conducted last year, when 64 percent of people fell for the gambit. But this year surveyors broke down the responses according to sex, and they found a remarkable divergence: Only about 10 percent of men accepted the password-for-candy offer. But about 45 percent of women did.

Organizers offered no explanation for why this should be, and when I asked my friends over at Broadsheet, all they were willing to tell me was their mothers' maiden names. Do readers have any ideas -- are women simply more trusting? More naive or ignorant about computer security? Do they have less to hide? Or maybe they're just crazy for candy?

Surveyors also found that 61 percent of office workers would give up their date of birth. When told that they would be entered into a drawing to go to Paris, 61 percent of men and 62 percent of women parted with their home addresses.

The group also reports:

Most people used only one (31 percent), two (31 percent) or three (16 percent) passwords at work, but a few poor souls had to use as many as 32! It was also found that 43 percent of people rarely or never change their password which is very poor security practice.

(Via the WSJ's Business Technology blog.)

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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