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Password security tips: When and how to share them safely with loved ones

Tony Bradley | Feb. 18, 2015
Your passwords are one kind of secret you probably need to keep, even from trusted loved ones. A new survey from Intel Security reveals people's habits and the risks they might be taking.

We're conditioned almost constantly to protect our passwords. Don't write them down. Don't store them in a Word doc on your desktop. Don't share your password over the phone or by email. Don't ever give your password to anyone under any circumstances. The gray area comes with whether to share your password with significant others.

Intel Security commissioned a survey of 2,507 adults aged 18-54, who are online and use Internet-connected devices in North America (US), Asia Pacific (Australia, Singapore), and Latin America (Brazil, Mexico). The results illustrate the varying opinions on just how much you should share with your spouse.

In the United States, 32 percent of the survey respondents said they know their significant other's bank or credit card password(s). The Intel Security report doesn't indicate whether that password knowledge was shared voluntarily by the other person, or known through other means.

The flip-side to this finding is that two-thirds of US adults apparently do not know the bank or credit card passwords for their significant other. That shows serious dedication to the idea of keeping passwords secret.

The survey also discovered, however, that other passwords are shared more readily. More than half (55 percent) of those surveyed in the United States, for instance, know their partner's Facebook password (and vice versa). Just under half (46 percent) indicated they know their significant other's email or PC password, and 45 percent reported knowing the other's cell phone password.

The Intel Security survey also explored how couples communicate, and whether sensitive content is deleted once sent or viewed. Despite prominent scandals around nude selfies and the like, 28 percent of U.S. respondents surveyed did not delete personal data after sharing it with someone else.

Any time you share a password or anything else online, you increase the risk that it might be exposed or compromised. Michelle Dennedy of Intel Security offered some tips to help you protect your device and personal information:

" Share with caution: Dennedy stresses that you should not share passwords with anyone — including a spouse or partner. If there is an actual need to share a password, she suggests creating a unique code just for that account and monitoring activity closely. Be prepared to change the code immediately if it appears to be compromised. 

" Use a PIN to unlock your phone: Your smartphone or tablet contains all kinds of personal and sensitive information. Protect your mobile device with a PIN or passcode of some sort. Don't choose a PIN that's an easily guessed pattern or something easy to find out like your birth date. (Bonus tips: 9 other ways to lock down your phone.)


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