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How to Cure Password Overload Syndrome

By Cory Huff | Posted on August 29, 2012

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The average person uses 10 different passwords every day. Personally, I think that’s pretty low.

If you’re anything like me, you have hundreds of passwords. Yes, I said hundreds. Think about everything you do online – email, calendar, banking, music, blog commenting, forum discussions, and so much more. Each one requires a password of some sort.

This requirement for hundreds of email/password combinations has brought about something that I’m calling Password Overload Syndrome. You’re probably familiar with this problem. You sit there staring at those stupid red error letters with your blood boiling, screaming “P.O.S.!!”

how-to-cure-password-overload-syndrome

People handle their POS in many ways. Since nobody can remember all of their passwords, they resort to extending their memory by writing down their passwords. Some use a simple piece of paper. Some (like me) use a password protected spreadsheet. Mine has two tabs: one for my personal life, with several dozen passwords and another for work with several dozen passwords.

There’s even whole companies that specialize in helping you remember your passwords by storing them for you in a secure manner.

The venture capital trail is littered with companies that have tried to fix this problem. As more and more of our lives move online, this is a problem that will eventually have to be solved.

The True Cost of Passwords

Password Overload Syndrom is an expensive problem. Recently Matt Honan, tech writer for Wired Magazine, had his passwords stolen and his entire digital life was erased in just a few hours. A year’s worth of pictures of his daughter, countless articles he had written for work, and other content – all gone. If Honan, a technology journalist as savvy as any, was hacked, then the same thing could happen to any of us.

The cost doesn’t stop at personal data lost. Many people re-use the same password, or a slight variation of the same password, over and over across dozens of websites. If someone gets your email password, they could very well get access to your banking, credit card, or other financial data. Stolen passwords are sold on the black market.

A Possible Solution

Social login provides a solution to the password problem in two ways.

First, by funneling all login functions through a single point of authentication, a person can create a single, strong password that they can remember. Also, a person can change that single password frequently to keep hackers from guessing. As more and more sites implement social login (Janrain currently has social login deployed on over 350,000 sites), this becomes a very promising solution.

Second, social login eliminates the need for email or password confirmation links. Email based authentication is a source of heart burn for many security experts. By using social login to pass an already verified email address, security experts can rest easy that they don’t have to expose their systems, and marketers can rest easy that they have a legitimate email from the customer.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that implementing social login on mobile websites and apps is more than a kindness to customers. On a mobile screen, what would you rather do – type in a password on a tiny keyboard, or click a single button? Customers will be more likely to login, which translates to higher registration rates and more purchases.

How do you handle Password Overload Syndrome?

Photo: sybrenstuvel

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About the author

Cory Huff

Strategic Business Analyst

Cory Huff is a Strategic Business Analyst at Janrain. For the last five years, Cory has been helping clients build connections with their customers and create personalized marketing experiences with the social web. Working with customers like Universal Music, National Public Radio and MTV, Cory has led teams of marketers and sales people in a variety of initiatives.

View all posts by Cory Huff