3 Reasons to Think Twice Before Sharing Passwords
The conversation goes something like this: You ask a friend or family member if they’ve seen the latest episode of your favorite show because you just HAVE to talk about it. Only to be told that they don’t have the required streaming service.
So what do you do? You offer up your password so that they don’t miss this must-see content.
If this is you, you are not alone. In fact, according to a recent survey of 1500 participants, up to 79% of consumers admit to sharing their passwords with someone outside their household. While streaming services constitute a big chunk of this number, we are sharing passwords for all types of platforms, including financial, business, and social media accounts.
It’s easy to become complacent, especially if sharing your password means you can help someone else out, which feels like the right thing to do. But there are many reasons, some of which we will outline here, why you should take your password security much more seriously.
1. Your Account Security is Compromised
First and foremost, when you share your passwords, you are essentially multiplying the chance that a hacker will have access to your private account information because now your accounts are being accessed on more than just your own device. Furthermore, if you have the same password for multiple accounts (which you should never do, btw), you’ve jeopardized the security of that information as well.
What happens when your friend or family member leaves your account open, or stores your account information in an insecure area? You can’t assume that whoever you shared your PW with takes the same care with cyber security as they should or that you would.
If someone with malicious intent gains access to your primary email account, they can basically destroy your whole online identity because they can use access to your email to change any and all passwords linked to it.
2. The Risks of Sharing Passwords in the Workplace
While some companies still permit or even encourage password sharing in the workplace, we strongly advise against this practice.
Researchers have found that 81% of hacking incidents use stolen or weak passwords. If a hacker is able to break into your system, shared passwords amplify your risk as they will have greater access to large sections of your network, opening you up to malware and ransomware attacks.
What is Malware?
Malware is a broad term for any software that disrupts, leaks private information, gains unauthorized access to information or systems, and interferes with your computer security and privacy.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts a user's access to their own system and files by encrypting them.
While sharing passwords at work might aid in the ease of collaboration, it also makes it difficult to parse who is completing what work and can create confusion among supervisors.
A better approach would be to look into platforms that allow team accounts for multiple user access. I understand this sometimes isn't always practical, as it can be expensive, especially for small business owners.
Consider a business' need for Adobe Creative Cloud as an example. Rather than sharing a single Adobe user account and password with all team members because the business cannot afford multiple user accounts due to cost, I recommend seeking a more cyber-secure solution. Perhaps creating multiple unique accounts with an alternative creative app, like Canva, combined with an alternative PDF editor to meet the same requirements.
Overall, the risks greatly outweigh any possible benefits, thus workplace passwords should remain a single user.
3. Phishing is Becoming More Sophisticated
The term “phishing” comes from the idea that hackers use bait to lure in gullible or trusting users in an attempt to attack their computers with malware, and ransomware, and steal information that can be used for financial gain.
There are a couple of types of attacks that can take place.
One is a larger-scale attack in which the hacker will send out a mass email with a call to action, like clicking a link. Often, the email will appear to come from a trusted source, such as your utility company, or your workplace’s HR department. Once you click the link, you are then directed to enter login credentials, and just like that, the hacker, who is controlling the site, now has information they can use to exploit you. Other attacks are more targeted but work in similar ways to extract information.
Phishers can also use your email credentials to create spoof emails to your contacts, tricking them into giving up information because they trust the request is coming from you.
As you can imagine, the more people you share your passwords with, the more vulnerable you (and they) are to phishing attempts. The consequences can be dramatic, both structurally, and financially, in ways that could take years to recover from.
A Final Word on Sharing Passwords
The most important thing to note here is that sharing your passwords is rarely a good idea. It’s human nature to want to be of service and help those we care about, but the best policy is a no-sharing policy, as it protects not only you but the person with whom you are sharing your information.
You should always use long, complex passwords, which you change frequently. Changing passwords regularly helps with security, but can also create a headache when you can’t remember all of them.
For these reasons, it’s helpful to set up an effective password management system so that you can outwit the hackers, and keep your information private, where it belongs. These password management systems will also have more secure ways of sharing personal information, such as passwords when necessary. While a few of our favorites include popular platforms like LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password, there are plenty available on the market to compare, each with its strengths and shortcomings.
To name an additional consideration for an effective password management setup that many of us don't want to think of, where would your family be left if something were to happen to you? Password management and sharing have a seat at the estate planning table and you need to have a plan in place for this.
If you are concerned about your safety online and don’t feel like you have a handle on your password security, we offer password management services that meet you where you are and help to ensure your information is protected. Book a free consultation so that we can discuss getting you started on your journey to password security.