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More and more Germans rely on multi-factor authentication and password managers. The good old password alone will soon become obsolete in the age of identity theft.

Identity theft is a real danger. To prevent this, a digital spring cleaning is advisable. Almost half of all Internet users now use a password manager (25.5 percent) or use a similar notebook to write down their access data (21.5 percent). These are the amazing results of the representative ESET Spring 2022 survey of 1,000 internet users. The digitization of everyday life has received an enormous boost with the corona pandemic (ESET study “Quo Vadis, companies?”, 2020) .

Whether shopping, banking or texting friends: nowadays everything is done via the Internet. Users leave footprints and data is generated. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it can easily be misused for identity theft. The ESET security experts explain what to look out for when digital spring cleaning.

“Germany has caught up. Password security is on the minds of many users. Nevertheless, my tip is: Leave the digital comfort zone you are used to! With just a few clicks, your online accounts are protected from cyber thieves. For example, activating two-factor authentication effectively protects the access data from thieves. Even if these fall into the wrong hands, they cannot be misused,” advises Thomas Uhlemann, ESET Security Specialist. “Data and apps also accumulate on most PCs, smartphones and tablets over the course of a year. It pays to declutter regularly. The firmware, operating system and all applications should also be checked and updated.”

Three out of four respondents use 2FA at least partially

Almost 28 percent of the Internet users surveyed rely on two-factor authentication (2FA) for every online service. This allows users to create another factor of verification in addition to the password. This can be a confirmation code on another device, for example an SMS on the smartphone. A fingerprint on a sensor or a USB token can also be used for identification. Around 46 percent protect their access data at least partially with another factor in addition to the password. 26 percent do not use it at all.

One in four uses a password manager

A third of Internet users are registered with up to 20 online services (source Web.de). Creating a unique password for each account and remembering it is a huge challenge. Almost 32 percent have accepted this and remember their passwords or press the “Forgot your password” button.

One in four Internet users uses a password manager to securely store access data and always have it ready. 21.5 percent of those surveyed use a notebook to manage login data. Around 15 percent save the passwords in the browser. Pleasing: Only 5.8 percent of those surveyed use identical passwords for multiple accounts to simplify things.

Every fourth smartphone user uses no or weak security functions

Almost twelve percent do not use any security functions to unlock their smartphone. If the device falls into the wrong hands, all the data stored on it is freely available. Twelve percent of those surveyed also use the rather insecure function of unlock patterns. At least one PIN is used by over 41 percent. Around 27 percent rely on biometric functions such as fingerprints or face recognition.

About the poll

For the representative online safety survey, ESET surveyed 1,000 Internet users of different ages in February 2022. The online survey was carried out by the market research institute Omniquest on behalf of the European IT security company.

Tips for a successful digital spring cleaning

  • Be up to date:Whether it’s the operating system or installed apps – always keep your digital companions such as smartphones, tablets and computers up to date and install updates regularly. Outdated software for which updates do not appear should be replaced with up-to-date programs.
  • Deleting old media properly: Old hard drives, whether you want to sell or dispose of them, should be properly erased. Emptying the recycle bin or formatting is not enough. Data can still be reconstructed by strangers. Special programs should be used here that carry out thorough cleaning. With modern SSD or SSHD hard drives, other methods must be used than with old HDDs. The BSI has compiled tips here.
  • Outsource important data:Pictures, videos and other personal data should be stored on external storage media. In this way, the data is secured and available even in the event of a failure. We recommend using network storage or cloud storage for such backups. In the cloud in particular, sensitive data should be provided with reliable encryption.
  • Secure access data effectively:Just changing the password alone does not increase security. Using a password manager, as in ESET Smart Security Premium, protects passwords and personal data. If possible, use 2-factor authentication. In addition to the user name and password, there is another factor here, such as a one-time code via SMS or app, fingerprint or face recognition. Many services like Facebook, Google or Apple offer this possibility.
  • Use security solution:A strong security solution is a basic requirement for PCs, Macs and mobile devices. This should offer comprehensive protection against malicious programs and reliably make everyday digital life easier with helpful functions such as child safety locks, password managers, data encryption and anti-theft protection.

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