Infosec 2011 Survey Reveals Root Password Bad Practice

BeyondTrust, April 21st, 2011

At Infosec 2011 in London this week (Europe’s largest information security trade show), a survey by BeyondTrust of over 50 first day attendees revealed that root password bad practice continues to be unchecked in many organizations.

Of those polled, over 58% said they would be able to steal information from a mission critical server if they wanted to.  35% of respondents revealed that the root password would be easily available because it was written on a post-it note, or white board in easy view of other employees.  A further 29% said that they could obtain the root password simply by asking for it, even if they didn’t have just cause for having it.

This, says Geoff Haggart, president of BeyondTrust International, shows the assumption that once someone has authorized access, that they won’t misuse it. He continues: “Bad practice in the management of root password is still very much evidenced today, in spite of increasing data breaches caused by insiders (employees and third party contractors).  However, as audit and compliance continue to focus on high risk assets, the need for better management of privileged access (who gets access to what and when) becomes paramount.”


The survey responses in full were:

If you wanted to steal sensitive information from a mission-critical server in the company, do you think you could?

  • Yes? 58%
  • Maybe? 25%
  • No? 17%


How easy would it be for you to find out the root password to a mission critical server without having just cause for having it?

  • Very easy (its written on a post-it or white board in easy view) – 36%
  • Quite easy (I could ask someone who knows and they would give it to me on trust) 29%
  • Not so easy (I’d have to bribe the IT Admin) 35%


What would you be willing to do to get your hands on £20?

  • Climb Everest in a tutu? 25%
  • Swim Naked across the Channel? 12.5%
  • Lose your job and leave the country? 21%
  • Leak information to a competitor? 11%
  • Steal data from a mission critical server? 30%