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Gartner Says Consumers Are Unwilling to Sacrifice Convenience for Security, Despite Widespread Online Fraud

February 2009 by Gartner

Although consumers claim to be concerned about security, they have little tolerance for sacrificing convenience to safeguard that security, according to Gartner Inc. Despite widespread security concerns, consumers continue to rely on service providers to protect their safety and persist in using unsafe password management practices, preferring to maintain the status quo rather than exploring new security methods.

In September of 2008, Gartner surveyed approximately 4,000 US online adults regarding consumer internet security and fraud issues, and ascertained their interest in various ways to manage passwords for online authentications. The results remained consistent with previous years’ survey findings that show consumers prefer convenience when it comes to security features. While the data collected focused on the use and management of passwords, Gartner believes that it has implications for consumer-facing internet sites requiring authentication and for the use of user-centric identity frameworks. While the survey was focused on US consumers and their use of internet security and fraud issues, many of the findings are consistent with usage patterns of consumers in the UK.

"Two-thirds of US consumers surveyed use the same one or two passwords for all websites they access that require authentication," said Gregg Kreizman, research director at Gartner. "Most US consumers want to continue managing their passwords the same ways they do now. They don’t favour using software or hardware to help manage passwords, and user-centric identity frameworks such as OpenID and information card architectures face scarce consumer demand."

Website owners seeking to improve authentication are grappling with how to accomplish this task while not turning away customers; as a result, new solutions must be found to balance security and ease of use.

"The survey findings serve to confirm our belief that there is a limited business for identity providers to manage general-purpose consumer identities and passwords to be used to access sites across multiple business contexts, such as financial services, government and healthcare," said Avivah Litan, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Instead, it is more likely that these providers will have some success managing identities for limited use on multiple sites within a specific business."

Gartner analysts said providers have a duty to provide a compelling justification for consumers to adopt additional security measures; a change in perception could precipitate an increase in sales.

Mr Kreizman said that online product and service vendors should redouble their marketing efforts to illustrate the advantages and practicality of routine and stronger authentication for consumers, and should provide appropriate pricing to encourage adopters.

"Businesses with consumer-facing websites that require stronger controls than weak password authentication alone should continue to augment passwords with complementary mechanisms, such as device identification, geolocation and transaction verification," Ms Litan said.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report "Consumers Don’t Want to Change the Ways They Manage Online Passwords." The report is available on Gartner’s website at

Additional information and practical advice on identity access management will be presented at the Gartner Identity & Access Management Summit 2009, taking place on 23-24 March in London. The Summit explores the development of IAM from tactical technology implementation to strategic business value. Gartner analysts, industry experts and IT security practitioners deliver unbiased, realistic analysis of the current state of IAM, as well as an independent vision of how things will evolve over the long term.

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