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Will Digital Data Ever Be Secure?

digitalworldAfter 20 years working for technology companies, I recognize I sound like a Luddite when I warn people that using password keepers, and encrypted data solutions is not the best option for securing your data and sharing it with a loved one. There is a risk of a breach, and the security put into place can prevent a loved one from stepping in to help you when you need it. But the news stories just seem to make this issue more confusing.

I didn’t believe Apple when they said they couldn’t break into their own security system. I believe the threat of exposing that capability would only make most adults recognize the inherent risk in using cloud storage or relying on their iPhone to keep their secrets. Recently, the New York Times reported that U.S. Says It Unlocked the iPhone Without Apple.

I spent a year working for a company that provided digital security solutions for the U.S. government. It required more than just encrypted data, and as we have all learned, most security breaches happen because of human error. According to Equifax, the leading source of identity theft is a lost wallet. After that, its typically cited as “phishing,” where criminals send out compelling emails to gather your personal information (some of which they may get from corporate data breaches), and unfortunately enough individuals readily respond making this a lucrative criminal tactic. We also hear about the bigger breaches including the recent breach at the Department of Justice getting access to the profiles of 9,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security.

So, is your digital data secure? I believe it really comes down to your comfort with the risk. Personally, I would never store my usernames, passcodes, or personal information connected to my finances in the cloud. I keep a list on a flash drive that I print out regularly so my family could easily access the information that surrounds our shared lives, and that they would need to manage if I were unable to do so. But I recognize many others enjoy the benefits of using password keepers.

Recently, there have been a host of virus attacks at hospitals making your digital health care records unavailable when you might need them. Because power goes out, web-sites fail and Wi-Fi isn’t always available, digital storage shouldn’t be your only source of record-keeping.

I drink my own kool-aid. When a client asked me to create a digital tool to collect and organize her information based on print version of the MemoryBanc Register, I did. In the past year, it’s been almost half of MemoryBanc product sales. The Flash Drive Edition prompts users through the key information in an editable, printable PDF document.

Because of the laws surrounding digital data, the only way to truly share it with others is to give it to them, doing that is against most of the rules of the providers but in this case, I’m a rule-breaker.  For those of us still looking at a friend who passed-away on Facebook, or that get email from a criminal who hi-jacked their still open account, please consider how you would share this information because there is no other way for those around you to deal with this unless you do. Pleaded. 

If you are in the metro-DC area, you can attend Taming the Internet at McLean Community Center on April 7, 2016 to learn more and have an in-depth discussion on this topic.

5 comments on “Will Digital Data Ever Be Secure?

  1. Reblogged this on Why Minding Your Stuff Matters and commented:

    Minding your information isn’t just for the traditional accounts. Your online accounts might be the most important to document because there is no back-up solution and most providers will not offer it.

  2. I have been scoffed at because I refuse to use cloud storage. Thumb drive it is for me! One encrypted copy connected to my PC & another encrypted copy in my safe, which I backup on the 1st of every month. I take it one step further and no longer use my old PC to connect to the Internet. Only use it for updating my financial/personal spreadsheets, which I keep on my thumb drive. Internet access is only via my iPad now. Instructions for how to access the thumb drive, where I have EVERYTHING, and what to do in the case of my death is in a sealed envelope in my safe as well.
    I truly don’t know if this is worth the effort, but it makes me feel better.

    • Let them scoff! I have two suggestions,
      1) print out copies of what’s on the drive if that isn’t already in your sealed envelope. I have had too many clients tell me they were locked out of the encrypted information. and
      2) don’t think of this as planning for death, think of these instructions that could be used by the person that would step into to help you should you just be (hopefully) temporarily incapacitated.It’s not as difficult to navigate after your death as it is to help you when you are alive.

      • Thanks for the suggestions. I do have some printed out. And I love the attitude shift. Thanks!

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