Study finds 60% of Africans don’t use passwords

December 27, 2013

The world has changed so much in recent years that knowledge of the past can be an obstacle to adaptation because it creates an expectation in the user that things will follow a certain sequence. Take, for example, the new study that has found out more than 60% of Africans do not use password or PIN to protect their mobile and computing devices. It clashes completely with the older worldview of having easy access of everything. It could have led to mistrust of the new technology and in Africa it seems to have created a barrier to adapting. If you manage people that are set in their ways and struggling to adapt to technological change, you will realize it may be very difficult for them to find a middle ground in using such gadgets and that is why the new study showing African smartphone users don’t have passwords is not a surprise. Africa is seeing many older people who are buying smartphones, computers and Tablets and the revelation that majority of them are still ignoring basic security features on their smartphones and are leaving crucial data vulnerable to criminals, who could steal financial and personal information like Mobile money details, contact and social media details among plenty of other private information. The latest survey reveals 60% of Africans never secure their Tablets like iPad, mobiles phones and smartphones and they barely change passwords, PINs, and only roughly 20 % secure their device regularly.

According to the findings, given that more than half of employed population use a personal mobile device at work, this statistic represents a massive challenge and a smooth highway for criminals. Also, the study found out that mobile and computing devices contain a mixture of work and personal-related information yet few care to keep it secure. I once told my friend from Zambia that in 21st century’s world, knowledge of the past could be a disadvantage to him and his wife. It resulted from an argument that generation Y is lost. The content of that fierce debate is a story for another day but what I meant was that older folks are allergic to change and they fear change and ever increasing superfast pace of the world and even research has shown that it is usually the older members of the workforce who always oppose change be it in politics, business, education, societal changes list is endless. As I told my blud from Zambia, his generation grew up setting the tone of their working lives in a very different fields and that is why most of them often find themselves feeling very uneasy with changes like technology. In additional to mobile money account and transaction history information, Africans store user IDs and passwords in their phones which exposes them to crackers and other underworld criminals. The finding reveals that people are using these devices as computers and think of them as more that call making gadgets but few secure them properly.

Barely a third of the respondents knew anything to do with personal security, mobile money security, Internet security and employer security which is a clear indication that people are more relaxed about securing their data and aren’t worried about breaches. To enhance security, African businesses that allow their staff to work with documents and communicate on their mobile devices must ensure they follow strict security measures and the data isn’t obtained by wrong elements that can sell the same data to competitors. Previous studies have shown that cities like Cairo, Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Luanda, and Dar Es Salaam criminals are targeting mobile devices because of the huge amount of information stored on them. Those users who have not been using a powerful password they lose data if their devices are stolen and a higher percentage of them never limit personal information posted to social networking websites and more than 70% of them never bother to set up privacy controls to restrict who can view that information while a staggering 51% never update security and virus protection software on their laptops and computers. Africans are embracing new technology but very few are concerned about their data. Smartphones are still relatively new in the continent especially in boondock where majority still don’t think of them as computers, and just like semi-illiterate urban folks who own smartphones that means they’re not securing their data adequately. Me think that Africans and business community need to start taking security seriously and start implementing strict procedures that cover exactly what data can be used on what devices, and make sure their employees are educated about what passwords they should be using.

Contador Harrison