Like it or not, devices rule our lives. From pictures to bank accounts to financial statements, every part of our lives is documented in some way on our phones, laptops, or desktops. But how secure are those precious memories, assets or important documents? And how are we keeping track of them?
A few weeks back, headlines were abuzz over a programmer who couldn't recall the password to his secure hard drive which held over $200 million in bitcoin. Another individual has been requesting to search a garbage dump to recover a hard drive with 7,500 bitcoins that he believes he threw in the trash in 2013. Reports estimate over $140 billion in bitcoin have been lost after individuals forgot their passwords.
I thought of all I possess on my phone or laptop. Where am I storing my passwords? Are there any records of them? What happens if I lose my phone? How would my loved ones even know how to access if needed?
In the past several years, our lives have become increasingly digital, from our bank accounts, PayPal, Venmo, emails, pictures and social media accounts. So how can you keep a record of your passwords and keep it secure? How can you best pass that information on to your loved ones in the event of your untimely demise? Several experts weighed in on this timely topic.
Keep a Record
The first thing to do in keeping your digital wallet safe is to keep an inventory of your devices and a record of all your identifications and passwords. With so many passwords to maintain track of these days, this may seem time-consuming at first. Maintaining a list of all written phrases or passwords and keeping them in a secure place—such as a safe—is a good start.
And while it seems reasonable to start this list on a spreadsheet or a document, a hard copy is essential. After all, if the list is only kept on your computer, who would know it is there? Keep it in a safe place, and let someone else know it exists.
Password Protect All Devices:
Do you have a password on all your devices? William Cannon from Signaturely, an online platform that allows digital signatures for documents, noted the importance of single or double-factor security. It only takes a few moments of your time to set up and use identifications for all of your devices. You may be exchanging thousands of dollars for a few minutes by not guarding your devices and information. When inspected in monetary terms, the difficulty of regularly typing a password may be worth it.
Update All Devices
While this seems like a given, how many times do you forget to update your devices? This is particularly true if you are using your device to make financial transactions.
Ensure that the electronic devices you use for financial transactions are up to date with the latest security software and install security updates as soon as they become available.
Make a List
Keeping a physical list of all your accounts and passwords can be a bit time-consuming. However, saving our passwords on our devices only works if you have the device. What if you lose your phone? Or drop your laptop?
While a list can be done on your computer, it is crucial not to email it to yourself or label it as "passwords." Should your email get hacked or your device fall into the wrong hands, all your valuable information could be in the possession of another party. Keep your physical list in a safe place, and let a loved one know about it as well. According to Lauren Patrick from Curricula, a cybersecurity awareness training company, if your email was ever breached, the document could fall into the hands of someone who should not have access to all of your passwords and identification.
Think Before You Click
Do you automatically open your emails? Click on links? Phishing and spear-phishing emails pose a great threat to your security so never click on any link in an email or text message unless you have absolutely confirmed that the communication with the link is legitimate.
Don't Use a Public Network
Using a public internet connection can easily compromise your IP address and initiate an access point for a hacker. Using a VPN is the easiest way to create a secure line between you and a server, thereby hiding your IP address, said Heinrich Long, Privacy Expert at Restore Privacy.
Many people reuse their passwords over and over. They also may use birthdays, addresses, names, or other variations that can be easy for thieves to figure out. The best passwords use a combination of letters, characters, and numbers and are never reused for other accounts.
In addition, Jake Hill, CEO of DebtHammer, a top personal finance publication, suggested not to reuse passwords. Invest in a password vault and let it handle all of your passwords. Be vigilant in checking your account activity, and make sure you have text alerts set up just in case someone else logs into your account.
What about crypto holdings, such as bitcoin? While you receive support from a bank if your credit card is stolen, if your digital coin holdings are compromised, there are very few options for recovery.
For these types of investments, a cold wallet may be a safer bet, said Steven J.J. Weisman, lawyer, a college professor who teaches White Collar Crime at Bentley University and one of the country's leading experts in scams, identity theft, and cybersecurity. A cold wallet, such as a USB or a hard drive, is not connected to the Internet and is therefore less susceptible to being hacked.
Take Extra Precautions
What are some other precautions you can take to protect yourself? Some of the best ways may also be the simplest. Don't leave your cell phone unattended. If you are in public, make sure no one is standing over you. For iPhones, make sure "Find My iPhone" is turned on.
Take the extra time and protect yourself today!