The streaming service is making tài khoản owners enter two-factor codes in a limited thử nghiệm. That's … actually not so bad.

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It's clearly khổng lồ Netflix's benefit if more people pay for access. But its current trial also improves your security in the process.Photograph: Aleksandar Nakic/Getty Images

Look, let’s be honest. Sharing passwords is as endemic lớn the Netflix experience as having your favorite show canceled two seasons in. So when the streaming service starts testing ways to lớn curtail that practice, it understandably riles up the many, many people who have come to expect communal accounts as a matter of course. And yes, it is always annoying when a gravy train goes off the rails. But even if it’s not Netflix’s top priority here, you’re much better off keeping your password to yourself.

The limited kiểm tra that Netflix introduced this week is basically a size of two-factor authentication, the kind you hopefully already have on most of your online accounts. Some users have sầu begun lớn see the following prompt when settling in for a binge: “If you don’t live sầu with the owner of this account, you need your own tài khoản khổng lồ keep watching.” Below that, there’s an option lớn get a code emailed or texted to lớn the account owner, which you can enter to continue watching. 

A source familiar with Netflix's trial says that the company is still in the very early stages, & sees the effort as a way both to verify who's using what accounts và to lớn minimize the security issues inherent in unauthorized sharing. 


Yes, security issues. And while Netflix’s flirtation with a password-sharing crackdown is by no means altruistic—not that anyone has read the terms of service, but it does specify that your tài khoản “may not be shared with individuals beyond your household”—it’s also true that sharing user names & passwords with even your closest relations can have woesome consequences.

“There seems khổng lồ be a misunderstanding that sharing passwords with known individuals is not dangerous,” says Jake Moore, a cybersecurity speciadanh mục at security firm ESET. “The truth is that we shouldn’t be sharing passwords, and adding multi-factor authentication will help this process remain better protected.”


OK, but why? What’s the actual harm if I pass along my password to lớn a cousin or not-so-casual acquaintance? It can come in a few forms. The most basic is also the most innocuous: While you might nói qua your log-in with just one frikết thúc, you can’t control how many people they then tóm tắt it with, và how many people those people share it with, và on & on, lượt thích an old Faberge commercial. When hoiquanzen.com senior writer Lily Hay Newman audited the Hulu trương mục she herself was mooching off of a few years ago, she found more than 90 authorized devices. 


Admittedly, freeloaders primarily threaten the cohesiveness of your recommendations lists. It’s not the over of the world. They could also, though, steal whatever personal data your protệp tin holds.

The much bigger issue is that the wider the password circle gets, the more risk you personally take on that your password will become compromised. And given how often people reuse passwords across multiple sites and services, that means your exposure could extend far beyond Netflix. 

“Because I shared my password with you, and you got hacked, that criminal now has my password,” says Steve Ragan, a researcher at mạng internet infrastructure company Akamai. “And if I’ve sầu used that password anywhere else on the mạng internet, the criminal’s going to lớn find it, and they’re going khổng lồ have access to lớn that, too. It spreads. It’s a compounding issue.”

The practice of throwing a bunch of purloined user names & passwords at various services khổng lồ see what sticks is known as credential stuffing, & it’s hit the media industry particularly hard in recent years. Between January 2018 and December 2019, credential stuffing attacks targeting đoạn Clip services doubled, according to lớn Akamai retìm kiếm. The media industry as a whole saw 18 billion attempts over that same stretch. When Disney+ launched, thousands of accounts immediately popped up on dark web markets as hackers sniffed out the password-reusers. “Short term, what this is going to stop is the bulk sale of credentials of this type,” says Ragan. 


Requiring that you enter a code lớn access your Netflix trương mục also doesn’t stop you from sharing your credentials. It adds a layer of annoyance for both you and your beneficiary, but it also ensures that total strangers aren’t breaking in, & keeps credential stuffing at cất cánh. “It would help prevent those attacks,” says Lorrie Cranor, director of the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.


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And yes, it would also potentially help Netflix’s bottom line at a time when the streaming giant faces more competition than ever, as not only Disney+ but HBO Max, Peacoông chồng, và beyond compete for your monthly eyeball candy budget. About 46 percent of streaming đoạn Clip on demand customers mô tả the log-in of at least one service they subscribe to, according khổng lồ an October study from retìm kiếm firm Magid. And more than half of those people vì so with the assumption that the person they’re sharing with will use the service repeatedly, versus a one-off viewing. The more of those people who actually pay for what they watch, the better Netflix’s financial position becomes. In that view, security is an ancillary benefit.

The source familiar with Netflix's trial says that while the company has more or less freely allowed tài khoản sharing in the past—CEO Reed Hastings described it as “a positive thing” at CES in 2016—the situation has gone beyond that initial intent; the experiment helps explore one way khổng lồ curb it that also keeps users that much more safe. 

Again, it’s unclear whether Netflix will expvà this thử nghiệm, or explore other ways lớn clamp down on password sharing. At least, though, a system that introduces two-factor lets you continue sharing, as long as you don’t mind passing along the occasional code. It’s a little inconvenience for a lot more peace of mind.


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Brian Barrett is the digital director at hoiquanzen.com, covering security, consumer giải pháp công nghệ, and anything else that seems interesting. Prior lớn hoiquanzen.com he was the editor in chief of the tech and culture site Gizmodo và was a business reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest daily newspaper.
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