In our increasingly digital world, securing your digital passwords is paramount to protect your personal and financial information from unauthorized access. Whether you are an individual or an estate planner, implementing effective strategies to secure your digital passwords is crucial for your estate planning endeavors. In this article, we will explore various ways to secure your digital passwords and ensure the safety of your digital assets. Join us as we explore practices that will empower you to enhance your password security, whether managing your digital presence or advising clients as an estate planner.
Ways to Secure Your Digital Passwords
Creating a comprehensive storage plan is crucial when securing your digital passwords, especially in estate planning. Here are some ways to accomplish this.
Create a Plan for Storing Passwords Securely
One important way to secure your digital passwords is to establish a plan for storing them securely. Avoid writing passwords on sticky notes or saving them in unencrypted files. Instead, consider using password management tools or encrypted password vaults. These solutions provide a secure and centralized location for storing all your passwords, requiring a master password for access.
Use Password Managers for your account logins
Password managers are secure software applications that help you generate strong, unique passwords for your online accounts and store them in an encrypted database. They provide the convenience of automatically filling in login credentials and offer features like password generation, synchronization across devices, and secure sharing with trusted individuals. Using a password manager can significantly enhance the security of your passwords by reducing the risk of weak or reused passwords.
Master Passwords and Password Splitting
A master password is a strong and unique password that grants access to your password manager. It is crucial to choose a master password that is complex, long, and not easily guessable. Additionally, consider password splitting, which involves dividing the master password into two or more parts and storing them separately in different secure locations. This adds an extra layer of protection, as an attacker would need access to all the parts to reconstruct the master password.
Use a Safe at Home
Storing physical copies of your passwords in a secure safe at home can be a viable option for those who prefer tangible backups. Ensure the safe is made of sturdy materials, is fireproof and waterproof, and has a secure locking mechanism. Keeping safe in a discreet and protected location is vital, away from prying eyes or potential theft.
Do Not Use a Safe Deposit Box at Your Bank
While a safe deposit box at a bank may seem like a secure option, it is generally not recommended for storing passwords. In the event of your incapacity or passing, accessing the safe deposit box and retrieving the passwords may involve lengthy procedures or require a court order, causing delays and complications for your designated individuals.
Record and Save Emergency Info
In addition to your passwords, it is essential to document and securely store emergency information related to your digital accounts. This includes account recovery options, security questions and answers, backup codes, and any other relevant information that can assist in regaining access to your accounts. Keep this information encrypted and backed up in a secure location, such as a password-protected digital file or encrypted USB drive.
Make a List of Each Service and Its Access Information
After securing ways for your account logins and access information, the next step is to compile a comprehensive list of equipment and services that require such credentials. This includes logging devices, accounts, or services that rely on login credentials, passwords and any other form of authentication. This list will help you keep track of your accounts and prevent password loss or forgetfulness.
Computers, Cell Phones, and Other Electronic Devices
Include details about your devices, such as computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other electronic devices. Note the login credentials, passcodes, or PINs required to access these devices.
List all your email accounts, including personal and professional accounts. Provide the email addresses associated with each account and the corresponding passwords or recovery methods, such as security questions or backup email addresses.
Document the details of your financial accounts, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, credit card accounts, and other financial institutions. Specify the account numbers, the names of the institutions, and the login credentials or access codes required for each account.
Online Services and Memberships
Record information related to various online services and memberships you have, such as music and photo storage services, computer backup services, recurring purchases, and recurring charitable giving to nonprofits. Include account details, login credentials, and applicable subscription or membership information.
Important Contact Information
In addition to the account information, maintain a list of important contact information. This should include contact details for individuals who can assist in managing your accounts, such as trusted family members or friends whom you have designated as inactive account managers. Include their names, phone numbers, email addresses, and their role in managing your accounts in case of incapacity or death.
Locations and Access Information to Safes, Safe Deposit Boxes, Alarms, etc.
Note their locations and access information if you have physical storage solutions like safes, safe deposit boxes, or alarms. This can include combinations, keys, or access codes required to open or disable them.
Digital Legacy Contacts
Digital Legacy Contacts play a crucial role in estate planning, ensuring that your digital assets and passwords are managed according to your wishes after your passing. With social media being one of the dominant uses of the internet, it is essential to understand how social and communication apps manage user accounts.
Social Media Platforms
Many social media platforms recognize the importance of digital legacy and offer options to manage your account after you pass away. For example:
Google – Google allows users to set up an Inactive Account Manager, where you can designate trusted contacts who will be notified and granted access to your Google account data after a period of inactivity.
Facebook -Facebook provides a “Legacy Contact” feature that allows you to select a trusted person who can manage your Facebook profile after you pass away. They can write a pinned post, respond to friend requests, and update profile pictures.
Microsoft – Microsoft offers the “Next of Kin” feature, which allows you to designate someone as your next of kin. This person will be able to request the closure of your Microsoft account or access certain information, depending on the policies of each Microsoft service.
Instagram – Instagram provides the option to memorialize an account of a deceased user. Memorialized accounts remain on the platform as a tribute to the person and prevent anyone from logging into the account.
TikTok – TikTok allows users to request the deactivation of an account in the event of the account owner’s passing. They require a death certificate and other relevant information to process the request.
Snapchat – Snapchat allows users to request the closure of an account of a deceased person. They require specific information, including the account username, full name, and death certificate, to initiate the account closure process.
Password Protection Companies
There are also password protection companies that specialize in estate planning services. They manage and secure your digital assets after your passing. These companies provide a secure platform for storing your account credentials, passwords, and other important information. Trusted individuals, such as family members or designated executors, can be granted access to your digital vault to manage and distribute your digital assets according to your wishes. Some popular password protection companies include LastPass, Dashlane, and Keeper.
By implementing these ways to secure your digital passwords, you can fortify your defenses against unauthorized access and mitigate the risks of identity theft or data breaches. Regularly update your passwords, enable two-factor authentication when available, and stay vigilant about potential phishing attempts. Protecting your digital passwords is essential to maintaining your online security and safeguarding your personal information.
Securing your digital passwords is essential in today’s digital age to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access. By implementing the best practices for password security, such as using strong and unique passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and utilizing password managers, you can significantly enhance the protection of your digital accounts. Additionally, incorporating password security into your estate planning efforts ensures safeguarding your digital assets and the smooth management of your digital presence in the event of your incapacity or passing. Remember, prioritizing password security is an ongoing commitment that contributes to digital safety and peace of mind.
Password managers are generally considered safe and secure. They use strong encryption to protect passwords, and most reputable password managers have undergone rigorous security audits. However, it is essential to choose a trusted and respected password manager, use a strong master password, and keep your devices secure further to protect your password manager and the stored passwords.
Yes, it is recommended to change your passwords periodically, especially for sensitive accounts like banking or email. Aim to change them every 3-6 months or sooner if you suspect any security breach.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an additional layer of security that requires you to provide two forms of verification to access an account. This typically involves entering a password and receiving a unique SMS or mobile app code. Enabling 2FA significantly enhances the security of your accounts by adding an extra step for verification.
It is generally not recommended to write down your passwords on paper or store them in easily accessible digital formats. However, if you need to write them down, consider using a physical password notebook or a password-protected digital document. Always keep these records in a secure and discreet location, such as a locked drawer or a password-protected file.
If you suspect a security breach or compromised password, act promptly. Change the password for the affected account immediately and check for any unauthorized activity. Additionally, consider enabling the platform’s additional security measures, such as notifying the service provider or activating two-factor authentication.