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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Tony Chua, Hong Kong
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70% of Hong Kong netizens use the same password in multiple accounts

The survey reveals that despite rising fears of online attacks, most people do not act in response to change their risky online habits.

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and PayPal Hong Kong on Tuesday jointly announced the results of a study into Hong Kong netizens’ awareness and habits regarding personal information protection in the online world. To understand how the growing popularity of digital lifestyles, online group-buying and smartphone usage in Hong Kong is increasing the risks associated with sharing personal data online, CityU was commissioned by PayPal to conduct a survey of more than 1,200 Hong Kong netizens. The research showed that despite 38% of respondents being concerned about sharing personal information online, 7 in 10 people use the same password with an average number of 7 online accounts. The study also revealed many other interesting insights into how Hong Kong people are safeguarding their personal data from cyber-attacks and how daily online habits are putting users at risk from online criminals.

Same password, multiple accounts

Designed and conducted by CityU, the survey shows that nearly 70% of respondents admitted to using the same password across multiple accounts. When asked how many websites were holding their personal information, the majority of respondents reported that the number is 7 on average. This is alarming as once a cyber-criminal has access to the password for one online account, he could quickly build up a profile of personally identifiable information for theft. Moreover, 6 in 10 people surveyed reported that they never update their online passwords or only do so when required. Using a strong online password and frequently updating it are simple, but effective security practices to avoid intruders from hacking into accounts to get our personal details or to conduct malicious acts like online fraud, according to a CityU report.

“Despite rising fears of hacking and online attacks, most people do not act in response to change their risky online habits,” said Dr Daniel Tse Woon-kwan from CityU’s Department of Information Systems, which is responsible for the study. “The proportion of risky behavior such as using the same passwords for multiple accounts runs unexpectedly high across respondents of all levels of education and income level, an indicator of the widespread issue of online vulnerability.”

Security still a concern with online payments

The survey revealed that over 75% of respondents regularly make payments online at least once a month for online shopping and bill payments. Many Hong Kong people are already accustomed to using online payments. But despite the increasingly common use of the internet for payments, 78% of respondents state that security is a concern that discourages them from using online payments more often.

“Although many Hong Kong people appreciate the convenience of online payments, they are still hesitant to share their personal information online,” said Ms Kerry Wong, General Manager of PayPal Hong Kong and Taiwan. “People are reluctant to increase their use of online payment methods mainly because they don’t know how to protect themselves and their private information online.”

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