Hey You! Get Off My Cloud! The perils of technology

If time waits for no man, then today’s technology is making fools of us, outstripping even the most cerebrally agile. It is difficult to know where this rush will end and whether there will ever be a pause long enough for the majority of us to catch up. Call me a Luddite, but chances are if you are older than 20 you too will be having difficulties keeping up with the hi-tech revolution.

Let’s for a moment give some thought to the relatively new predicament which will undoubtedly become increasingly relevant as we succumb to the wider implications of this so called advancement. With many of us having online bank accounts, access to auction sites such eBay and its sidekick PayPal, social media sites not to mention members’ only websites which we may, for one reason or another, wish to keep private, there is an ever increasing demand to invent and then remember log in names and passwords.

It is recommended that we regularly change passwords and account log in details, and ensure that the same ones are not used throughout all accounts at any one time but, with currently over 25 log in accounts and passwords, I am beginning to flag. I am not alone. Many resort to writing down all their accounts, online names and passwords in a notebook - by which I mean a book of the paper variety - which is undoubtedly risky. I have even come across a recently published book which asks the reader to list all bank accounts, with their account numbers and the location of all spare sets of house and car keys which is almost as unwise as walking around with your debit card with the PIN in the same wallet... which is not unheard of. So, what is the solution? How do we go about listing our online assets, personas and accounts, along with our passwords whilst keeping them secure?

The latest trend is clouds. Google the word ‘cloud’ today and there is no mention of cumulus just endless providers seeking your business to store all and sundry in the sky. It would appear the obvious answer; a virtual filing cabinet, a Staples megastore if you will, holding files, documents, attachments, scanned contracts, tick lists, photograph albums and personal soundtracks all under one cirrus. You can backup all your data and leave it there indefinitely, supposedly secure in the knowledge that no one can tamper with it. There are even providers that will hold your digital legacy, your funeral arrangements and more until your chosen executor accesses it.

Sounds a treat but just how secure are these clouds? The blurb speaks of the innovative lengths to which the providers have gone to ensure that your files are secure with high end digital encryption safeguards in place. On the face of it, it appears to tick boxes but am I missing something? Surely it must be a given that if the provider knows how to invent it, they, or some disaffected underling has, sooner or later, the capacity to use that knowledge corruptly. And further still without wishing to rain on IT at large, what was it that so was so easy for recent hackers to gain access to the White House computer system and then another band of usurpers, the Pentagon’s?

So where does this leave us and our online footprint? Long after we have shuffled off, potentially without safeguards in place, there will undoubtedly be undisclosed social media sites with our images and messages which will be distressing for friends and relatives or, equally alarming, dormant bank and gambling accounts with funds, the current figure of £15 billion of unclaimed assets will be the mere tip of tomorrow’s iceberg which could prove tempting for rogue geeks.

So, what is the solution? Some recommend keeping passwords in a locked file on the PC, with only an executor knowing the password, but surely PCs get stolen and worse still, the PC dies. Others suggest leaving details with the solicitor of a central locked file, but I cannot think that would thrill the reader. I have read others suggesting placing some passwords in the Will... clearly short sighted. My simple solution?

  1. Type up an Excel sheet with four columns.

  2. Head your columns with Accounts, Log in names or email address, Password 1 and Password 2. (Some banks require two passwords hence two columns.)

  3. Under Accounts of the left, list your online accounts

  4. Under Log in names, type your corresponding user name or email address.

  5. Under Passwords, ensuring all details and letter cases are accurate (remember, some log ins require a mix of upper and lower case letters).

  6. Print the document off.

  7. Save As on a memory stick.

  8. Delete passwords on your PC.

  9. Save the file for the next time you change your passwords.

  10. Store the printed version and/or your memory stick in your house safe.

  11. Ensure your executor knows code of safe where copies of your Will and Last Orders will be held.

  12. Update all regularly.

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