Big fun finding my father’s passwords. A cautionary tale

When a loved one dies, you might find yourself needing to hack into their computers to get access to bank accounts, etc. You might think that their online password manager will be helpful, assuming you know the password, and if you don’t, you can just use password recovery, right? Ha!

Online password managers don’t store your master password. That’s why they’re so powerful. So, it behooves all of us to make sure a trusted someone knows our passwords. Luckily, someone knew my dad’s Windows password. But that didn’t help with bank accounts and Gmail. Luckily, he used Firefox, which has a gaping security hole that allows stored passwords to be viewed in plaintext. This enabled me to get the passwords. Without this security hole, we would have not been able to get the passwords.

If you might have to do this one day with a elderly parent or relative, consider a few test runs on their computer first. My dad had right and left mouse key functionality switched, the caps lock light on his keyboard didn’t work AND the caps lock was broken so nothing was ever capitalized. Since a couple of his passwords have caps in them, I had to send them as an email to his account then cut and paste into the password field.

One comment

  1. This is going to happen more an more in the digital age. It’s important to have a strategy for this for loved ones. You have to make sure it covers the bases for most cases, without spreading your info to just anyone.

    Personally, I have off-line financial software that stores it’s info in an encrypted file, which has all my passwords and financial info. The password for that file is stored in a locked, fire-proof safe in my home, and the file is backed up on a dropbox-like service with a password also listed on that document (in with my will). Family know the password to that, and if they access it will find instructions to look for the envelope in the safe.

    Is that safe? Most of family lives 400+ miles away, and I safe key with me. So for me, that’s a pretty safe solution. Worst case, they can’t figure it out and use traditional routes to gain access. Direct access could be problematic anyway if you have multiple heirs that may squabble over finances. That’s a bridge I’ll worry about when I come to it… But something to keep in mind when an heir.

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