More than anything, it's lax password habits that are leaving people open to the threat of online fraud. That's according to new research backed by a well-known hacker and security vendor McAfee.

It seems that expert advice to use longer, more complex passwords is falling on deaf ears. Some 30 per cent of people are still using passwords of only one-to-six characters in length and almost a quarter use all alpha characters.

Passwords are easy to guess

"It proves just how slack people are," says ex-hacker Mathew Bevan. Welshman Bevan was accused of hacking into several US-based military targets in the mid-1990s using his Commodore Amiga. "People that use one simple password that is easy to guess are just making cyber criminals' lives easy...it's like leaving your car keys in the ignition."

Added to this, it's the proliferation of the same passwords that are causing problems. A quarter of us always use the same password, while 43 per cent of people just don't change it. And nearly two-thirds of people 'mostly' use the one same password for everything.

But Brits aren't as bad as most Europeans. While 16 per cent of us use the same password for everything, there are twice as many who are as cavalier in Spain, and around 20 per cent in Italy and The Netherlands do so.

A total of 3,500 people were interviewed for the findings, designed to coincide with National ID Theft awareness week.