Everyone has their own methods for keeping their passwords in a safe place. For some people, this means a secure password manager that is safely synced across all of their devices. For others, it can be a post-it note in the top drawer of their desk. I won’t say who I know who uses the post-it method, but they have not listened to me when I’ve told them what a bad idea that system (if you can call it a system) is. There are many threats out there to our personal data, and our passwords are a prime target. No matter what system you have been using in the past, now is a good time to review it and see if you can make it safer.

How Does Someone Steal My Passwords?

Your passwords can be stolen in a variety of ways. The hackers use an ever-changing toolbox of tactics to try to get your information.

  • Phishing – This is a very common scam that attempts to prey on you. You are fooled into thinking that you are logging on to a legitimate site. In an offline world, this can also include a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS. Regardless of the tactic they use, the goal is to trick you into giving out your password or sensitive information.
  • Brute Force Attacks – This is the stuff you see in movies. A device is hooked up to a home alarm, for example, and runs through all the possible codes until it finds the right one. This type of attack isn’t done by an individual, but a software program that would try and test all combinations to find your password.
  • Data Breaches – I’ve written about these recently. At the end of the year, companies even publish reports on all of the data breaches in the prior year. With a data breach, a company is hacked and all of the information they have stored is leaked onto the web. If your information is included in that information, hackers can access it and try to use it to access your accounts.
  • Keyloggers – These are software that is installed on your device. They track every key you press on your keyboard and relay those back to someone else. Usually, when given the data, a hacker can figure out what site you went to and your username and password. (A good anti-malware software should be able to protect you against these attacks)

How Should I Store My Passwords?

Earlier this year I recommended that you store your passwords in a password manager. As part of their will envelopes, I include a list of important information that clients should keep with their important documents. Along with financial information and health information, there is a section for passwords as well. I don’t recommend that clients keep their passwords written in a book. A password manager can store all your passwords. It can also allow access to someone who needs the passwords after you’re gone.

Next Steps

Now is a good time to look at how you are storing your important information. If you’d like a copy of the Important Information Sheet used by my clients with their estate plan envelopes, click here and I’ll be glad to share a .pdf with you.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.
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