updated 10/4/2011 6:20:08 PM ET 2011-10-04T22:20:08

The importance of creating strong passwords, and changing them often, is a security tip lost on many Australians, according to a new survey.

PayPal, along with the Centre for Internet Safety, part of the Faculty of Law at Australia's University of Canberra, polled more than 1,000 Australians about their attitudes toward online password use and management. From a safety perspective, the respondents' answers left much to be desired.

Not only did 63 percent of those in the survey say they use the same password for multiple online accounts, that number shot up to 77 percent for people ages 18-24.

Nearly half of the respondents (48 percent) admitted changing their passwords only when required by a program or website; 7 percent said they never change their passwords.

Increasing their vulnerability, 41 percent of people have shared their passwords with friends, family members or work colleagues. Only 36 percent of those people have changed the password after sharing it.

Whatever your password is  –  a funny word, a string of numbers, your grandfather's middle name  –  it's a crucial line of defense for your online identity. With most people managing an array of Web profiles, from personal and work email accounts to Facebook and Twitter pages, the importance of a difficult-to-guess password cannot be overstated.

Despite all the glaring oversights in password protection, the level of Australian confidence in Web security is high: Ninety percent of respondents said they were confident their passwords could not be easily guessed.

PayPal and the Centre for Internet Safety recommend using a unique password for each online account and never including in it personally identifiable information, such as your name, address, birthday or place of work. These clues are often easy to glean from people's Facebook or LinkedIn profiles.

The survey outlines an example of how to create a strong password. "Think of a phrase like 'I love it when it rains on weekend.' Take the first letter from each word: iliwirow! Convert the letter 'o' to a zero: iliwir0w!"

It's also important from the security side to never share passwords and to change them regularly. The survey recommends choosing a regular occurrence — daylight saving time, it suggests — and changing all your passwords then.

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