Conducted by password-management company Dashlane (via Ars Technica), the Personal Data Security in E-Commerce Security Roundup [PDF] examined the password policies at various sites using 24 different criteria like acceptance of weak passwords and whether or not entry is blocked after failed attempts.
The roundup assesses the password policies of the top 100 e-commerce sites in the US by examining 24 different password criteria that Dashlane has identified as important to online security, and awarding or docking points depending upon whether a site meets a criterion or not. Each criterion is given a +/- point value, leading to a possible total score between –100 and 100 for each site.While Apple was the only company to earn a score of 100, other companies, like Microsoft, Newegg, and Target also received high scores while Major League Baseball, Toys R Us and Aeropostale received some of the lowest scores.
The study revealed that 55 percent of online retailers accepted weak passwords like "password" or "123456" and 51 percent made no attempt to block entry after 10 incorrect password entries. 61 percent did not provide advice on how to create a strong password, and 93 percent did not provide an on-screen password strength assessement.
Apple, however, met and exceeded all criteria as the company has notoriously stringent password rules to encourage its users to create strong passwords.
Some retailers may argue that such requirements impede user convenience, but companies such as Apple, arguably the most famous brand on the list, have shown that it is possible to be both secure and successful. In every category we tested, Apple implemented the 4 simple policies and procedures we recommend above. These policies resulted in the company being awarded the only perfect score in the study.When a new Apple ID account is created, users must have a password with at least eight characters, one lower case letter, one capital letter, and one number. The password cannot contain multiple identical consecutive characters, it can't be a common password, and it can't be the same as the account name.
Apple will also rate passwords as weak, moderate, or strong and it asks users to create security questions as well. When logging in with an Apple ID, three attempts at entering the wrong password will prompt a password reset via security questions or email authentication.
As noted by Ars Technica, while the study looks at several aspects of password management, it does avoid some important criteria such as whether sites allow password entry through unencrypted HTTP password connections or allow resets via security questions.