The Kiss of Identity Theft

Password Simplicity and Redundancy

By Robert E. Holtfreter, Ph.D., CFE, CICA

Taking Back the ID 

Identify Theft Prevention Analysis 


Franklin Winston, a well-educated and successful financial executive, always received the largest bonus in his company every year. As his wealth accumulated, he opened up a variety of saving, brokerage and checking accounts. Unfortunately, his professional success did not shield him from identity theft. He learned an unforgettable lesson when he discovered that his brokerage and checking accounts were wiped out. He talked with security personnel at his bank and realized his problem was his simplistic passwords for all his accounts — a redundancy problem. 
Winston's choice of passwords for various online organizations lacked imagination and complexity. He did not use a combination of numeric, alphanumeric and special characters — such as the ampersand — and both upper- and lowercase letters. And he used the same password for multiple accounts. Cybercriminals found it easy to hijack Winston's personal information and steal his identity. If he had used stronger, more complex passwords he would still have his money. 

 This case is fictional, but it is representative of an ongoing identity theft problem. There are no foolproof precautions, but at the minimum, we can select complex or stronger passwords and use a different one for each of our accounts.


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