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Passwords should be a safeguard, not a hindrance

By GAO JIN'AN (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-27 08:25

Passwords should be a safeguard, not a hindrance

A young man at work in an office in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province. Cybersecurity is receiving increasing attention in China.CHINA DAILY

"Password incorrect" was the repeated response when I tried to connect my wife's new device onto our home WiFi the other day. After racking my brain and making numerous attempts, I finally made it.

It was not the first time I forgot a password I preset, and I'm sure it will not be the last either.

An incomplete count shows I have to remember around 20 codes or passwords for e-mail, bank cards, Alipay and WeChat online payments, stock accounts and more. It's already a headache for me. Still, security experts have repeatedly advised us to regularly change our passwords and use complicated ones, in a bid to make everything secure.

With the popularization of the internet, our daily life is filled with various codes or passwords, which are something we can't do without and should seemingly have helped make us feel secure. But the reality sometimes turns out to be otherwise.

Despite all precautions made and passwords set and reset, theft or hacking of passwords, subsequently leaked personal information and loss of money, are still nightmarish disasters frequently reported by the media.

We don't expect a world without thieves or hackers, and it would also be equally unrealistic to simply rely on such passwords for the safety of our accounts and personal data.

As online payments gain in popularity, it has become more urgent to guarantee safety of users' accounts and their money. A report by the China Internet Network Information Center says the number of online payment users already reached 416 million at the end of 2015. And central bank data showed that online transaction value last year was 2,018 trillion yuan ($311 trillion). What an astronomical figure!

China is the largest internet market in the world, with 688 million internet users at the end of 2015, but reports showed that investment in cybersecurity accounted for merely 2 percent of total IT industry investment, far below the 10 percent level in Europe and the United States.

Measures have already been taken or are in the pipeline to make cyberspace and online deals safe.

On March 25, the Cybersecurity Association of China was set up, pooling all major internet players and research institutions into the nongovernmental organization to step up security of the virtual world. And the National People's Congress published in July 2015 the draft cybersecurity law to elicit opinions and suggestions from the public which, in part, is aimed at protecting cyberspace security and personal data safety.

Issues arising amid the development of modern technology could be solved by more advanced technologies. As for the protection of personal accounts and data, technologies such as biometric fingerprint, iris and facial recognition might, I think, be safer and more effective, but their wide applications may take time and cost big investments.

The size of China's cyberspace security market is expected to grow to $4.97 billion in 2019, according to an International Data Corp report. Many internet security-related companies, including some listed ones, are already making a fortune out of this growing market.

As for individuals, we are willing to take measures for the safety of our own accounts and private information. Though passwords or codes of all kinds are part of our life, we certainly don't want to be kidnapped by them.

It is highly expected that someday we will not have to struggle with passwords and those suffering from the so-called password syndrome-an anxiety and fear about the safety of passwords and accounts-could be freed from the doldrums, and we will no longer worry about the safety of our accounts and our hard-earned cash.

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