Shades of Perception- User Factors in Identifying Password Strength

by   Jason M. Pittman, et al.

The purpose of this study was to measure whether participant education, profession, and technical skill level exhibited a relationship with identification of password strength. Participants reviewed 50 passwords and labeled each as weak or strong. A Chi-square test of independence was used to measure relationships between education, profession, technical skill level relative to the frequency of weak and strong password identification. The results demonstrate significant relationships across all variable combinations except for technical skill and strong passwords which demonstrated no relationship. This research has three limitations. Data collection was dependent upon participant self-reporting and has limited externalized power. Further, the instrument was constructed under the assumption that all participants could read English and understood the concept of password strength. Finally, we did not control for external tool use (i.e., password strength meter). The results build upon existing literature insofar as the outcomes add to the collective understanding of user perception of passwords in specific and authentication in general. Whereas prior research has explored similar areas, such work has done so by having participants create passwords. This work measures perception of pre-generated passwords. The results demonstrate a need for further investigation into why users continue to rely on weak passwords. The originality of this work rests in soliciting a broad spectrum of participants and measuring potential correlations between participant education, profession, and technical skill level.



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