Forgotten passwords is top complaints to IT Help Desk

Lost passwords are the biggest headache for IT helpdesks, according to a survey byDiskeeper and research firm Vanson Bourne.

The survey showed 55% of 100 IT directors across the financial services, manufacturing and retail sectors cited lost passwords as the top cause for complaints to IT helpdesks.

The retail, distribution and transport sectors have the highest number of lost password complaints with 60% of IT directors citing the problem as the most common. Computer freezes and crashes were the biggest grievance for 60% of those surveyed in the financial services sector.

Nigel Stanley, practice leader in security at Bloor Research, believes passwords should be replaced with pass-phrases. "The key problem [for IT helpdesks] is the Monday morning reset menace. This is made worse by companies forcing resets every month or so on cycle. Some self-help password reset programmes are quite useful but the uptake isn't massive," he said.

"User education is the key by helping users to choose a key phrase or 'pass-phrase' rather than a password. A pass-phrase will be far more memorable. Changing the semantics is important," he added.

Jason Hart, senior vice-president for Europe at security firm Cryptocard, recently saidpasswords are fundamentally insecure and represent the biggest security threat facing organisations. A team of researchers at Georgia Tech Research Institute are alsoinvestigating whether passwords are now worthless, given the supercomputer-like performance now available to hackers using standard desktop graphics cards.