Why it’s a **** idea not to mask passwords

Graham Cluley

Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen has challenged websites to stop masking passwords as internet users type them in to login.

Nielsen claims that web surfers make mistakes when all they can see are asterisks rather than the characters of their password, and this results in a bad usability experience. Masking passwords makes websites unfriendly, Nielsen says, and ultimately means lost business and users choosing overly simple passwords.

Jakob Nielsen’s opinion is supported by security expert Bruce Schneier who says on his blog that shoulder-surfing (where someone watches as you type your password) isn’t very common, and that entering passwords in cleartext greatly reduces errors.

I’m afraid that wise as these two gents are, I have to…

Read more in my article on the Naked Security website.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.