January 3, 2019

Relationships and security: Who can you trust with your passwords?

By Priya Kantaria

When a relationship ends, you might look back at shared memories and intimacies, but a UK Government-funded cybersecurity programme is now warning people to think about the passwords and PINs shared in the throes of romance.

A survey of young people in the UK showed that nearly half (45%) have shared passwords and PINs with boyfriends and girlfriends.

The danger is that many of these Romeos and Juliets fail to change their passwords after the relationship ends, even if it ends badly.

And there is a rising trend of these ‘re-data-ships’, where a person shares their personal data with partners and friends.

10 rules to be safe from a re-data-ship

Cyber Discovery has formed 10 rules for the young and sociable to protect their online security:

  1. Do not get caught in re-data-ships, where you share personal data with friends or partners. Relationships are sometimes short, but personal information can last forever.
  2. Stay away from using your favourite musician or athlete’s name as your password, as well as say your birthday, pet’s name.
  3. Use different passwords for each site or use.
  4. Use a complex password with a password manager tool.
  5. Change your passwords regularly, twice a year is recommended as a minimum.
  6. Have a sentence as your password, but one that makes sense and is memorable to you.
  7. Don’t write down passwords, keep them in your memory.
  8. Enable Touch ID when you can, so only your fingerprint can access your passwords, or create two-step verification where you can.
  9. Use a long password of more than 10 characters and a mix of lower and upper case, numbers, letters and symbols.
  10. Do not save your password to a browser because if someone has access to your computer then they also have access to all of your passwords.

Keep your friends close…but not too close

Cybersecurity expert and creator of Cyber Discovery James Lyne described the dangers of trusting your friends with personal data.

He said: “Young people are taught about things like ‘stranger danger’ from a young age, but often we concentrate so much on our ‘enemies’ that we forget to think about our friends and partners, particularly when it comes to staying safe online.

“Friendships and relationships constantly change throughout a lifetime, but those that start at a young age can be particularly susceptible to bad break-ups and fallings out.

“We need to teach young people about the importance of protecting their personal data and the risk of ‘re-data-ships’, as it will lead to greater protection later in life.”

Sharing isn’t always caring

Other research from YouGov says that 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds feel comfortable sharing their date of birth with an organisation they don’t know.

An even higher percentage (36%) said they would share personal data with an organisation they didn’t know simply when asked.

And the same amount of people who trust their bank with their personal data (57%) said they also trust their friends and family with that information.

James Lyne explained how concerns for privacy and the safety of personal data for young people is part of the growing industry of cybersecurity.

In an industry with a projected shortage of 1.8 million by 2022 (Frost & Sullivan), the hope is that by understanding their personal risks online, young people will also be encouraged to follow a career as a cybersecurity professional.

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