If you’ll bear with me for this personal finance 101 lesson, but although I know this is trivial, it is something I only recently started doing, and that is making a copy of important account numbers and passwords.
Yesterday morning, I left my computer sitting open while I walked the dog (yes, I know, environmentally evil). When I came back, it was dead. I presume it ran out of battery juice since the battery is getting fairly old (new ones are down to $40, so I might just get one), but it did result in a few moments of panic.
I do have the passwords for my online banking, etc. (and this blog) backed up on a memory stick, but it would be a hassle to restore that if, say, I need to pay a bill while the computer is in for repair, or replacement.
Thus I made a piece of paper with three columns: website, account name, password.
This turns out to be a very long list. However, at least now I know that if something bad happens to my immediate computer access, I can always log in from another computer.
The next thing to make is a list of all my “paper”-account numbers on a single piece of paper so I don’t have to dig through my files in case, say, I lose my credit card.
Yes, I know this is obvious too! I would not say any of this is strictly necessary (which is why I have not done it), but it is more convenient than having to reset 50 passwords in a worst case scenario.
Why different passwords?: A password is barrier. If the passwords are identical or similar, cracking one means easy access everywhere else. Furthermore, for each new account it means one more chance of a an administrator running password crackers and though most are honest some are not. This also speaks to the importance of having strong passwords. When I was a sysadmin I ran a dictionary attack against my users and I cracked 1/3 of their passwords in about 2 minutes, which were simple words. Naturally I was not pleased.
Why paper?: Paper has proven a very robust method of storage, at least over my lifetime. On the other hand, it would now be very difficult for me to access data on floppy disks. Even contemporary computers don’t talk well to each other; this is particularly problematic when it comes to proprietary software. This is why I store everything in TXT because it is human readable. I prefer to keep data on my own computer and back it up elsewhere (typically two other continents 😀 ). My worry about leaving important data with online services is that they too could lose the data, or suddenly start charging for it, etc. It is a matter of degree of course. I got hardcopies of wedding pics, but most other pics are stored online. I got hardcopies of passwords, but not of this blog, and so on.