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Netflix cracks down on password sharing, improve security

Wed 3 Nov 2021

When Netflix announced plans a few months ago to introduce new tests that are meant to target password sharing, many users were concerned that this may result in the end of account sharing. While Netflix has long had a ‘no password sharing’ policy, extremely high levels of password sharing exist between family and friends.

A 2020 survey by The Manifest found that 36% of people shared their streaming service subscriptions with one to two other people, with more than a quarter of subscribers (27%) sharing it with three to four people.

Earlier this year, a small number of Netflix users received a pop-up message, confirming the need to be in the same household with the account owner. “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching,” read one of the messages.

Other Netflix users also faced a pop-up message, asking for a unique code that had either been emailed or texted to the account holder. While this wouldn’t be a problem if the account owner was a close friend or relation, if the user no longer spoke to the account holder then they would be locked out of the account.

This form of two-factor authentication used by Netflix helps ensure that only authorised users have access to the account. Netflix confirmed they were sending these messages to a number of accounts, telling The Verge “This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so.” At the moment, Netflix has not announced plans to spread out these new security features to all users.

Long-standing issue

 It’s not a surprise that streaming giants like Netflix are looking for new ways to ensure customer accounts are only being used by authorised individuals. An analysis by research firm Parks Associate found that password piracy and sharing cost streaming providers $9.1 billion in 2019, showing the massive financial impact of this practice.

However, Netflix is likely to be more concerned with so-called illegitimate password sharing, where passwords have been shared many, many times and now accounts are used by people the account user has no idea about. Netflix account holders also face cybersecurity issues when this occurs, as their passwords may be hacked and sold to criminals.

One method to ensure a password is as secure as possible for streaming services is to use a password manager. These services typically also contain a password generator that is able to instantly create strong passwords, that are securely stored in the manager. Conventional password rules like using a long and random password, that is not used for any other accounts, are essential to follow.

Sharing passwords with family members and friends may be common for users of streaming services, but the threats this can bring to account holders are often substantial. For example, if someone uses the same password for several online accounts, including Netflix, and the password is compromised, then many other sensitive accounts could be accessed.

If an account owner does decide to share their account with family members or friends, they shouldn’t email or text the password, as this increases the chances the password will be intercepted and the account compromised.

It may be true that it’s not possible to be 100% sure that your online passwords are fully secure, due to a range of factors outside of your control. But following some simple guidelines can help reduce the ability of criminal actors to access your accounts.


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