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Passwords negatively impact company security and employee mental health

Okta’s new Passwordless Future Report demonstrates how passwords negatively impact the security of organisations as well as the mental health of employees.

The research, which surveyed 4,000+ workers across the UK, France and the Netherlands, found that 70% workers believing biometrics would benefit the workplace.

It also revealed that the majority of hacking-based breaches are a result of reused, stolen or weak passwords. In total, 78% of respondents use an insecure method to help them remember their password, and this rises to 86% among 18-34 year olds.

Some of these memory aids include use the same passwords for multiple accounts (34%), writing them down on paper (26%), typing them on their phone or computer (17%), and using well-known passwords (6%).

Okta found that passwords play a part in the rising levels of anxiety in the workplace. The Passwordless Future Report found that 62% of respondents feel stressed or annoyed as a result of forgetting their password. This was highest in the UK (69%), compared with France (65%) and the Netherlands (53%). The average worker must remember a total of 10 passwords in everyday life, which evokes negative emotions in two-thirds of respondents (63%).

“Okta’s research clearly showed that employees can experience negative emotions and stress due to forgetting a password and that can impact not only their career but also their emotional health. And this is not due to forgetting a password but due to using an insecure method to remember passwords. Biometric technology can be promising in creating a passwordless future, but it’s essential to create an environment of trust, while ensuring privacy and personal data protection,” said Dr. Maria Bada, research associate, Cambridge University.

“The potential impact from forgetting a password can cause extreme levels of stress, which over time can lead to breakdown or burnout. That is due to our brains being sensitive to perceived threats. Being constantly focused on potential threats online causes us to become hypersensitive to stress. In the long term that can cause mental health problems,” warned Dr. Bada.

Okta suggests that combining methods such as biometrics and machine learning with strong authentication, can help organisations remove inadequate gateways like passwords altogether.

70% of respondents feel there are advantages to using biometric technology in the workplace. This is the highest in France (78%) and with 18-34 year olds across all regions (81%). Almost one-third (32%) feel that biometric technology could make their day-to-day life easier or reduce their stress and anxiety levels in the workplace. However, 86% of respondents have some reservations about sharing biometrics with their employers, demonstrating that workers are ready for the ease of use, but do not trust organisations to protect their data.

Todd McKinnon, CEO and co-founder of Okta concluded: “At Okta, we believe deeply in the potential for technology, and that for organisations of all sizes and industries attempting to become technology companies, trust is the new frontier. Today, businesses need to adopt technology that enables them to innovate quickly, while prioritising the security, privacy, and consent controls that help them to be trusted.

“Passwords have failed us as an authentication factor, and enterprises need to move beyond our reliance on this ineffective method. In 2019, we will see the first wave of organisations going completely passwordless and Okta’s customers will be at the forefront.”

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