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Is your password secure? Half of Americans admit to hacking romantic partner’s phone

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We’ve all heard of someone who has taken a deep dive into their romantic partner’s phone. Perhaps they were looking for something specific, such as evidence of lying or cheating, or they wanted to get revenge—possibly in the form of spending or stealing their partner’s money.

In January, PasswordManager.com surveyed adult Americans to understand how common the practice is of going through a romantic partner’s phone. Overall, 1250 respondents passed through our screening question, admitting they have accessed a romantic partner’s phone without their permission. We found out what apps they engaged with and why.

Key findings:

  • 50% of Americans have hacked a romantic partner’s phone
  • 59% of hackers knew their partner’s password; 22% didn’t need to enter one; 14% guessed it
  • Using a significant date for a password was most common reason it was easy for hackers to guess
  • 22% say they used a romantic partner’s finger without their permission to access their phone
  • 15% transferred money using Venmo or a similar app; 14% bought items through a shopping app
  • 22% accessed a bank account

1 in 2 Americans admit they’ve broken into a partner’s phone

Overall, 50% of respondents passed through our screening question asking if they have ever successfully accessed a romantic partner’s phone without permission. Which begs the question, how many have tried, but failed due to sufficient security?

A large number of people, 43%, say they’ve hacked into multiple partners’ phones. In fact, 5% say they’ve broken into 5 or more partners’ phones to date.

Women were more likely than men to say they’ve broken into a romantic partner’s phone (54% vs. 46%)

8 in 10 accessed phone to look for evidence of cheating

The vast majority of hackers were driven by anxiety or suspicion that their partner was unfaithful.

Overall, 83% say they accessed at least one of their partners’ phones, at least in part, to look for evidence they were cheating. For more than half their hunch was correct; 55% say they found out they were in fact being cheated on.

Additionally, 77% say they accessed at least one of their partner’s phones to look for evidence they were lying about something (other than cheating). Two-thirds did discover they were being lied to.

When considering sharing your password with a romantic partner, Daniel Farber Huang, privacy advocate and author of the book “GET LOST: Personal Privacy Strategies for Extremely Busy People,” says you should first ask yourself two questions.

“Question #1 is: Do you trust your partner? And Question #2 is: Are you open and honest in your relationship with nothing to hide from your partner? If you can answer yes to both, then sharing your phone password is not unreasonable to do. If you can’t answer yes to both, then you should likely keep your password private.”

PasswordManager expert and cybersecurity researcher, Gunnar Kallstrom echoes this sentiment.

“It is important to keep your passwords private from everyone, even family. However, when it comes to a romantic partner, especially a spouse, I believe if you have nothing to hide, you hide nothing. If you fully trust them, then feel free to share. I have been married for 13 years and my wife and I do share passwords with each other and we are comfortable doing so.”

3 in 5 hackers knew their partner’s password

When asked about the most recent instance of hacking into a partner’s phone, for the majority, it didn’t take much effort.

Twenty-three percent say the phone didn’t have a passcode nor password, while 16% say it had a password and 57% a passcode.

Of those who had to use a password or passcode to gain entry, 80% already knew it, while 20% successfully guessed it.

Half of those who had to guess say it was easy

More than half (55%) of those who guessed the password, say it was easy to do so.

For the plurality (51%) this was because the password or passcode was a significant date. Additional reasons it was easy to guess included the password or passcode being an easy number sequence (31%), a pet’s name (6%), or child’s name (4%).

Respondents also wrote in reasons they were able to guess the password so easily. Responses included:

  • “He uses the same password for everything.”
  • “It was a number they usually use.”
  • “She just wasn’t very smart and always did something that was extremely obvious like her birthday or her kid’s birthday or something like that.”
  • “Last 4 of social security number.”
  • “I followed the smudges on the phone.”

“When it comes to passwords, it pays to be creative,” says Matthew Ramirez, serial entrepreneur and Forbes 30 under 30 alumni.

“Avoid using anything personal about yourself such as birthdays, names, and favorite things. Instead, use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols to make it more challenging to guess. It’s also a good idea to change your passwords often. This will help to ensure that your information remains secure.”

Using personal information for your passwords is a no-no according to Kallstrom as well.

“It is tempting to use personal information in your password because it is easy to remember,” says Kallstrom. “However, someone you know well also likely knows this information about you, and a hacker can conduct some quick OSINT on you and find out that information to compromise your passwords.”

1 in 7 Venmoed themselves

The most common actions people took after accessing their partner’s phone was looking at their text messages (86%), social media (63%), browser history (41%), and email (40%).

Additionally, some accessed applications where they could potentially spend or send themselves money.

Overall, 26% say they accessed a money transferring app, such as Venmo or Zelle, and more than half (57%) did actually transfer money. One in four people who transfer money, say they transferred more than $500.

Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) also say they accessed shopping apps on their partners’ phones, such as Amazon.

Fifty-nine percent say they bought something through a shopping app, nearly a third of whom spent over $500.

1 in 4 accessed romantic partner’s bank account

Hackers also took a look into romantic partners’ bank accounts. Twenty-two percent of respondents say they accessed a bank account on or more romantic partners’ phones without permission.

The top reason, selected by 48% of respondents, was to look for evidence of lying. However, 44% say it was to transfer money, while 42% say it was to look for evidence of cheating and 35% to see their financial health.

“While sharing your passwords with a romantic partner may seem like a good idea, it’s not a good idea at all,” says Ramirez.

“They may not be as careful with your information as you would like, and they could also share it with others without your knowledge. It’s best to keep your passwords to yourself. If you must share them with someone, use a unique password for each account and don’t share the details. Doing so will help to protect your privacy and keep your information safe.”

Methodology

This survey was commissioned by PasswordManager.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish on January 19, 2023. In total, 1,250 Americans were surveyed.

The survey uses a convenience sampling method, and all appropriate respondents were found through a screening question.