What happens if you lose your digital keys?
With advances in computer technology in recent years, everything from email to bill payments to banking to basic communications are all done online — but without a password, it’s difficult to access any of those important details.
That’s what a Winnipeg woman experienced five years ago after her husband died.
Karen Wiebe told 680 CJOB that her spouse, Floyd, was a self-taught computer geek, which was great while he was alive, but was a “recipe for disaster” after his death, because of the hundreds of passwords for every little thing she had to try to retrieve.
“Floyd paid all of our bills online. I’d never ordered anything online. I’d never paid a bill online, so I didn’t know. I had to learn,” said Wiebe.
“His computer and his phone were passcoded, and my kids were luckily able to figure out what that was, and in his computer there was an application where all of his passcodes were stored, and if you knew where to find that — which I didn’t — you can find some of (the information).”
Ultimately, Wiebe’s solution was to make a list of everything — bank accounts, social media accounts, email addresses, and more — that she’d need to find the passwords for, and updated the list whenever she found a missing password. She said while her solution may not work for everyone, it’s worthwhile to have a plan in case the unexpected happens.
“It’s important to have it not only so your spouse can find it, but make sure one or two other trusted people can find that information,” she said.
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“It will save you hours and hours and days and days.”
Cybersecurity expert David Papp said there are a number of applications and systems on the market that help people manager their passwords, and that many have emergency access or emergency contacts — a way for a trusted loved one to access information in a pinch.
It’s a strategy he said has also been employed by some social media giants.
“A lot of people are realizing how disturbing it is to have all these accounts online,” Papp told 680 CJOB.
“It’s creepy, because these (accounts) proactively do things and they connect with people on behalf of the social media system, but the person’s not there.
“The worst is for the people who do know — they know that person has passed away, but it’s a constant reminder and it’s bothering them when they keep seeing it there. It’s a tough topic.”
Papp said Facebook’s “legacy contact” options allows for a person’s page to be memorialized after they die, and other social companies like Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn have forms that can be submitted for similar reasons.
“It’s all more work, though,” he said. “It’s very difficult to do if you don’t have the password.”