However, there is a problem with this thinking when it comes to security and identity theft. The results of a recent survey completed by PRIVATE WiFi and the Identity Theft Resource Center found this “convenience factor” trend to be alarmingly dangerous. As the infographic that resulted from the survey explains, consumers are three times more likely to a connect to a public WiFi hotspot if it is free. Favoring the convenience of their connection over the inherent security risks illustrates the desire to connect over the necessity of taking precaution.
We at the ITRC see this frequently: attempts at creating a more secure environment get halted because doing so is inconvenient. This “factor” is active in most spheres of life, but in the technology field, the problem is even greater. The entire point of technology is to make our lives more convenient and technology is moving at breakneck speeds to do just that. However, as these technologies pop up, one day after the next, they often push security out the window in the process.
The Convenience Factor and Online Banking
Remember the days when you had to actually go into a bank, wait in line, and then speak with a teller to deposit a check? It seems like eons ago, but it really wasn’t that far in the past. Then came Automated Teller Machines and we no longer had to go into the bank and could deposit checks at any time we wanted. This was very convenient, but it opened the door for criminals as now there was no need to show any identification to process financial transactions. Instead all we needed was a card and a PIN.
Internet banking was the next big step that epitomized convenience: you didn’t even need to leave the house to do your banking. This was great for those of us who wanted to pay bills and transfer funds in our pajamas, but it was also great for criminals who could now control our assets with just a bit of personal information.
As everything goes mobile we have the greatest level of convenience that has ever been seen. You can snap a picture of a check and have the funds available to you within an hour or less, but it also deteriorates security to a frightening place as there are so many ways a criminal can exploit these technologies.
The Convenience Factor and Password Management
Banking is not the only area where our need for convenience has overtaken the necessity of security. One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is by practicing good password management.
However, if you can find me one person who password-savvy — able to create a different password (including random characters, cases, and numbers) for each of their online accounts, changes them every three months, and can remember them without writing them down — then I would like to shake their hand.
Again, here the convenience factor pushes back the need for security. Strong passwords are necessary to protect your identity, but they are inconvenient.
The bottom line is that the convenience factor is something that we will have to work against for some time.
As the aforementioned survey revealed, consumers are three times more likely to throw security to the wind to use free public WiFi, even though they 76% of them know it could lead to identity theft! Security should never take a back seat just because it might seem inconvenient!