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Ask Jack: Is Password Sharing The Same As Password Stealing?

By Jack McCalmon, The McCalmon Group, Inc.

I get that stealing a password is wrong, but what is the big deal about sharing a password?


You are not alone if you think that password sharing is different from password stealing. Here is one survey's results:

[A survey] by Secure Data Recovery, a digital forensics service, asked 2,000 U.S. consumers about their password-sharing habits and which platforms they weren't willing to pay for. One in three respondents said they share a password with a partner, while one in four share with friends. The survey shows 80% of the U.S. doesn't consider it a form of stealing, and 69% reported using someone else's password.

Of those who share passwords, 36% restrict rogue users to the guest account, while 24% want streaming buddies to ask before logging in. One in 10 account holders discovered someone accessed their account after they logged in at another house, contributing to the one in six people who have been kicked out of a streaming service after password bans were implemented. Only one in ten signed up for their own account after losing access.

Aside from the civil and criminal issues surrounding password sharing, password sharing presents a security risk for your data.

For example, if you share your wireless password ("smooth123") with your neighbor and your other password credentials are the same or similar ("smoothXYZ") then those with whom you share a password may have enough information to access other devices and/or accounts. Your accounts may be hacked, your password becomes compromised, and your data is at risk from a third-party.

The final takeaway is that tech now allows most passwords to be discovered in minutes. Artificial intelligence will allow criminals even a better chance to discover your passwords. If your passwords are similar in any way or follow a pattern, then sharing your password puts all your passwords at risk.

Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, and Emily Brodzinski are attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience assisting employers in lowering their risk, including answering questions, like the one above, through the McCalmon Group's Best Practices Help Line. The Best Practice Help Line is a service of The McCalmon Group, Inc. Your organization may have access to The Best Practice Help Line or a similar service from another provider at no cost to you or at a discount. For questions about The Best Practice Help Line or what similar services are available to you via this Platform, call 888.712.7667.

If you have a question that you would like Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, or Emily Brodzinski to consider for this column, please submit it to Please note that The McCalmon Group cannot guarantee that your question will be answered. Answers are based on generally accepted risk management best practices. They are not, and should not be considered, legal advice. If you need an answer immediately or desire legal advice, please call your local legal counsel.

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