- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2016

Nearly four in ten Americans would rather be abstinent for a year than risk being hacked, according to the results of survey published Thursday.

Harris Poll interviewed more than 2,000 adults last month on the topic of cybersecurity, and found Americans aren’t entirely unwilling to skip a years’ worth of sex if it means keeping their internet account and private information protected from hackers.

Broken down by gender, 44 percent of women said they’d skip sex for a year in exchange for some digital peace of mind, compared to 34 percent of men. With regards to the millennial generation, meanwhile, pollsters said 43 percent similarly agreed to sacrifice sex in exchange for their online safety.

With high-profile data breaches and cyberattacks making headlines on a routine basis — evidenced most by the reported compromise this week of the Adult FriendFinder website and more than 412 million of its users — it’s hardly surprising that a significant percentage of Americans are willing to make privacy a priority.

But while the study suggests a good chunk of respondents are willing to make all sorts sacrifices for the sake of security — 41 percent said they’d forego their favorite food for a month in lieu of having to reset the passwords for all of their internet accounts — the same poll revealed Americans don’t treat their passwords and log-in credentials with the protection they should.

Nearly half of the people polled, 45 percent, admitted to having handed over a trusted password to someone else, according to the results published Thursday, with nearly one in four saying they’ve shared the password to an email account.

The same poll found that 25 percent of Americans consider sharing a social media password as more intimate than sex, despite 16 percent acknowledging either sharing or receiving such credentials.

“The nature of online security has changed dramatically. Five to ten years ago, cybersecurity was about protecting devices with anti-virus software. Today, data isn’t on our devices, but in the cloud — and the best line of defense we have to protect this data are passwords,” said Emmanuel Schalit, the CEO of Dashlane, a password management company that commissioned Harris Polls to conduct the survey.

“Everyone, from individual consumers to large organizations, seemingly cares about online security, but their actions don’t reflect this,” Dashlane’s digital lifestyle expert, Ryan Merchant, told The Daily Dot. “[We] know that the majority of notable breaches stem from password hacks, yet data shows people continue to use weak passwords.”

Around 63 percent of confirmed data breaches during 2015 involved accounts that had been protected with weak, default or stolen passwords, Verizon Communications said in this year’s annual data-breach report.

“This survey data continues to highlight an unfortunate trend — even with breaches happening to everyone from companies and celebrities to consumers, people are continuing to engage in risky password behavior,” said Mr. Schalit, adding it was “imperative” for internet users to take exercise the necessary precautions to protect their personal data.

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