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Americans know they shouldn't share their passwords, but do it anyway

95 percent of Americans share at least six passwords with friends or family, even though most people acknowledge this is a bad idea.

That’s according to a LastPass survey of its users, released today in a blog post by Amber Gott that includes an infographic summarizing the findings. The vast majority of passwords, it turns out, aren’t shared online: they’re shared verbally: 74 percent of passwords were shared out loud. 15 percent were shared using pen and paper, leaving around 10 percent to be shared via texting, email, and password management services combined.

The widespread practice of sharing Netflix and HBO Now passwords makes up a chunk of this total: 48 percent of users admitted to sharing passwords for TV or movie streaming. But Wi-Fi passwords are the most shared passwords, with 58 percent of users sayings they shared a password to give guests Internet access. (The remaining 42 percent must not have a router, or friends who visit, or any idea what their Wi-Fi password is.)

But the more surprising results were passwords for financial information, which 43 percent of users share.

“Most shockingly, only 19 percent of respondents say they don’t share passwords that would jeopardize their identity or financial information,” Gott wrote in the post, “leaving 81 percent of people who would share those passwords.”

The figures include sharing passwords with spouses, which should make the total figure a little less surprising. 76 percent of users share passwords with a spouse, but only 26 percent share with their children. Surprisingly, people are more likely to share passwords with a coworker (22 percent) than a friend (16 percent), possibly because of shared accounts.

Another highlight: 58 percent of users are re-using passwords on multiple sites, something every security expert will advise against. And this is a particularly bad idea if you share passwords. Giving your Netflix password to a friend might not seem bad, but if you use the same password for your Gmail account there’s a chance they’ll sneak a peak sometime.

Even worse, 73 percent of users admit they won’t change passwords after sharing them, meaning the potential security problems will only go on.

All of us need to change our password habits up a little bit if we want any reasonable expectation of privacy. But will we do it? Generational trends suggest not. Younger people are by far the most likely to share passwords: 40 percent of people between 18 and 29 are likely to trust their friends with passwords. Meanwhile, only 15 percent of people between 30 and 44 say the same thing.

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Justin Pot
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Justin's always had a passion for trying out new software, asking questions, and explaining things – tech journalism is the…
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