BY: MAUREEN L. O'LEARY
PRESIDENT, O'LEARY-GUTH LAW OFFICE, S.C.
In today’s fast paced, connected world, everything has logins and passwords. It’s not just your online bank account or investments; your refrigerator or front door may have an app that requires login and password information. On top of that, many websites or apps require that you change your password at regular intervals.
In the mobile age of smart phones, tablets, and laptop computers that let you take access to websites and apps with you wherever you go, a little scratch pad next to your computer with all your login information will no longer suffice.
As we become more mobile, there is also increased risk of exposure to hackers and thieves, so it is all the more important to be wary of how you store your passwords. That notepad next to your computer? All it takes is one person to snap a pic of your scratch pad or catch a glimpse during your video call. Next thing you know someone could access your accounts and wipe out everything you had, or post personal photos on your own social media accounts. Yikes!
Passwords are the front line of protection for digital security. But for most of us, it is impossible to remember different passwords for every website and app we use. As a result, many end up using the same password over and over, or use slight variations of the same, or a number of simple easy to remember passwords. The problem is if one app or website is hacked and a password is exposed, it can lead to a security breach on all apps and websites where the password (or similar ones) was used.
In the February 2022 edition of Wisconsin Lawyer, “What’s Hot, What’s Not,” one of the top five tech tips was the use of password managers.
We couldn’t agree more.
What is a Password Manager?
Password manager is the name for an app or system that allows you to save not just passwords, but login information, account information, or any other confidential information that you want to keep secure. You only need to remember one password for the password manager to access all your other logins and passwords.
A password manager allows you to store your login information, the specific website you use to login, and have a different complex password for every app and website you use. Many of these programs will also suggest a randomly generated password for added security.
Password managers can also store answers to security questions. That’s important because its best if you don’t use the “real” answers to the security questions that websites/apps ask. If a hacker has been monitoring you or it is someone you know, they may know the real answers.
Password managers also facilitate changing your passwords to websites/apps on a regular basis, and the use of passphrases. A passphrase is a longer version of a password, composed of multiple words, and as a result is more secure against "dictionary attacks."
Which Password Manager?
There are a variety of password manager programs out there. It is important to review which password manager best fits your needs and budget. Don’t be shy about investing in a solid tool to help you manage your secure information. Most importantly, never share the password for your password manager with anyone.
Many/most of these password programs use “no look” technology. That means the company offering the password won’t know your password. This is great in terms of security, but it also means they cannot help you if you lose or forget the password to your password manager. So, it’s critical to keep it secure and safe.
What does this have to do with my Estate Plan?
It is important for estate planning purposes to keep the password for your password management program in a safe place for when the time comes for someone else to gain access to your accounts. Keep it in your home safe or a safe deposit box and keep it updated as you change it.
A password manager is an excellent tool that will help manage your digital life now and help hand off your digital life to your agents and heirs down the road. Here is a link to a review of some of the best ones.