Protecting your family’s personal data from fraud and identity theft starts with good password habits

If your family is like most, your digital life is a communal experience and personal data is really the family’s data. Your loved ones often need to access your various online accounts—and that means giving them your passwords. Your spouse might ask you for the password to log into one of the family’s online shopping accounts. Your kids might ask you for the password to watch a favorite movie on one of your streaming entertainment apps.

The challenge is that password sharing can be risky, even among the people closest to you.

Kids in particular might not yet have developed the skills needed to practice safe password “hygiene.” There are ways to minimize the risks of family password sharing.

Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to granting password access for family members:

  • Never use a single password for multiple accounts, especially if that password is simple and easy to remember, and you’re sharing it among multiple family members. The more accounts accessed via a single password, the easier it is for cybercriminals to potentially access more of your personal data. Choose a different, unique password—ideally, a tough-to-guess password with random strings of letters, numbers, and special characters—for each shared account.
  • Never share passwords with your loved ones via email. If you must share a password manually, you can text it to your family member, as long as you select and delete that individual message as soon as it’s sent. (Remind your family member to quickly delete the message on their end, too.) Or you can do it the old-fashioned way: reading it aloud, or writing the password on a scrap of paper for your family member and shredding the note immediately afterwards.
  • If you share a password with your kids, insist that the password doesn’t leave the house. They might think it’s okay to share access to a streaming entertainment or gaming app with their best-friend-forever, but you should remind them that even if their friend is the most trustworthy person in the world, things happen: The password they share with their friend could be used on a non-secure Wi-Fi network, just to name one.
  • The most secure option for sharing passwords among your loved ones? By far and away, it’s to use a password manager with family-sharing capabilities.

The safest solution: Granting access through a password manager

Password Managers are an ideal way for families to share their online life while still protecting everyone’s personal information from identity theft and other cyber-crimes.

First, a definition: A password manager is a software tool that stores your many passwords—the average person has 100 online passwords, according to one study, in a single, encrypted location. The password manager creates randomly generated, hard-to-hack passwords for each of your accounts; to access any of these accounts, all you have to do is log into the password manager using a single strong password. From there, the software can log you into whichever of your accounts you choose, with no further manual password entries.