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.

Get your Digital Life Together, Please

The latest story that demonstrates the issues around our digital assets describes how the father of a best-selling novelist, Marsha Mehran, has been on an International data hunt to claim her writing stored online. 

Apparently there is a “surge of families struggling with similar questions is driving a behind-the-scenes political battle between tech companies and estate lawyers over who gets the keys to someone’s digital afterlife.” Facebook and Google have set up options for a legacy contact, but the reality is that someone might need access to your information even when you are still on this planet.

My parents gave me a durable power of attorney so that I could step in to help if they needed it, but it didn’t give me access to any of my father’s business or personal online accounts. Thankfully, we could take care of this before he could no longer help me (my father had Alzheimer’s).

As a mom and wife, my husband and I need to share access to our bill-pay, utility, mobile phone and even our insurance portal since the information pertains to our shared lives.

Please take a minute to download the free guide that will help you tame the Internet.

The guide is a chapter from the best-selling MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. 

Fight “Digital Amnesia” with free chapter from MemoryBanc

This morning, TODAY covered the story of “Digital Amnesia” — the experience of forgetting information that you trust a digital device to store and remember for you. We keep phone numbers, emails and even some passcodes on our digital devices which puts our information at risk and means our brains are out of the habit of memorizing this important information.

According to the study The Rise and Impact of Digital Amnesia by Kaspersky Lab, almost all (91.2%) of those surveyed agreed that they use the Internet as an online extension of their brain. Almost half (44.0%) also admit that their smartphone serves as their memory–everything they need to recall and want to have easy access to is all on it.

How do you fare against these simple questions:

– Can you dial the phone numbers of your family members from memory?
– How often have you reset a passcode in the past week because you couldn’t recall it?

For a simple back-up solution to your digital life, you can download a free chapter of the best-selling book MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life.

To take control of all of your personal information and accounts, purchase a copy of MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life from Amazon at a 30% discount.

Can the Law Keep Up With Our Modern LifeStyle?

After having to step in and use a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) to assist my parents, I quickly found so many gaps in its functionality, I devised many work arounds with my Dad so I could help them.

Not only were we surprised to find that a number of financial institutions declined to accept the DPOA, but there are many facets of our digital lives that it doesn’t cover.

moderntechoptionsFor those of us who use online services, email accounts and enjoy the online bill-pay services provided by our banks, what we don’t know can hurt us. If you haven’t stopped to read the “terms and conditions” you accepted, they typically state you can’t share the account and the provider basically dictates the rules. If you are incapacitated, the only way a loved one can get access is if you share your username and passcode.

The Uniform Law Commission helps standardize state laws and recently endorsed a plan that would give loved ones access to — but not control of — the deceased’s digital accounts, unless specified otherwise in a will. Given that at the age of 65, 7 out of 10 American’s will need 3 or more years of long-term care, we must recognize that most people will need someone to have access to these accounts while we are alive.

If you don’t have a list that documents this information for your own benefit and that can provide loved ones with needed information, click here to download a free chapter called “Taming the Internet” from the Amazon best-seller MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life that includes worksheets and details on how you can provide loved ones with the information they may need to help you.


3 Products To Simplify the Job of Every Caregiver

This story originally appeared on SpareFoot, and covered 11 products to help you organize in 2015. I’ve culled it down to three products that will simplify the job of every caregiver. Visit this link to read the complete list or read on to learn about the 3 products every caregiver should know about and how it will help you.

The number of accounts, documents and information you need to manage for yourself and your own household can be overwhelming. When I steped in to help my parents, it tripled the amount of information I needed to manage. Here are three things I have used to help organize their information so that I can easily find it, as well as protect it in a format that my siblings could easily understand and use if something were to happen to me.

1. MemoryBanc


MemoryBanc, is the award-winning system that comes in written or electronic formats, and prompts the users through the process of collecting and managing usernames; passcodes; and financial, medical, household and personal documents.

Today, “adults are creating written roadmaps to their documents, accounts and assets. Many are concerned about sharing key personal information in the cloud or a cloud-based solution and are using traditional pen and paper instead,” said Kay Bransford, president and chief curator of MemoryBanc. The written and flash drive formats make it easy to share the information with a loved one and keep the details of the individuals we are assisting organized.

2. Doorstep Digital


As the name implies, Doorstep Digital brings digital archiving to your door. In nine U.S. cities, digital archivists will come to your home to preserve photos, slides, negatives, documents and artwork. Company executives say this does away with the risk of priceless items being damaged or lost when they’re archived outside your home.

So far, the service is available in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, TX; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; and Seattle, WA.

After my father passed away, I used a local photo scanning service to digitize selected photographs of his life that we used at his memorial service. I then had a way to share these photo’s with my siblings and created a digital archive of our most treasured family photographs.

3. Fujitsu Scansnap


Fujitsu Scansnap scanners reduce paper clutter by allowing you to scan and store an array of documents. Turner said such scanners are becoming more affordable.

“I’m not sure I would say that 2015 will be a breakthrough year, but I definitely see desktop scanners being fairly typical by 2020,” she said.

I have been managing my parent’s financial, personal and medical lives for over 3 years. This is the one tool that has helped me stay organized while not being overloaded with paper. Be careful – it’s addictive!

I hope you find one of these products or services can help you simplify your job as a caregiver. Wished.

Our digital life, estate planning and reality

crystalballWe only recognize our reliance on the “cloud” when we lose power or our Internet connection is lost — just imagine how difficult it would be to navigate your own life without the online access to your bill pay, social media and email accounts.

With that in mind, can you imagine how frustrating it might be to a family member who has stepped in to assist you without access to any of your online accounts?

The National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information reported that about 70% of Americans who live to age 65 will need long-term care at some time in their lives. However, this isn’t just a problem for seniors — we all have a story of someone in our lives that had a sudden (and hopefully recoverable) disability. If this were to happen to you, what have you done to ensure those around you have what they need to help?

Did you know that almost EVERY online account you use — from your online banking and email, to your pictures, music … will be shut down and the assets frozen upon your death? Now consider what might happen if you were incapacitated — know how many of these accounts will recognize a Durable Power of Attorney if a loved one requests access?  That number is zero.

Last month I wrote What’s in that Online User Agreement You Accepted? and a recent article in the Wicked Local Lexington discussed Navigating the Retirement Maze: Protecting your Digital Legacy — reinforcing the call to document and provide access to this information.

My difficulty in using the estate and financial plans my parents had set up fueled me to launch MemoryBanc to help caregivers collect and use this information to help their loved ones. What I found in my first year of business, is that this was problem was not a caregiver issue alone. Most of my clients are between 40 and 60 years old. We all know the term “no single point of failure” and that is what we are working to provide our clients with — backup solutions to help them easily find as well as share key information when it might be needed most.

When AARP Foundation recognized our solution last year, I was encouraged. I’m pleased to see that the estate and financial planning community is starting to recognize the pervasiveness of this issue — and we will only see it mushroom in the coming years as more and more adults hit this roadblock. Focused. 

I hope you will spend the next five minutes documenting your usernames and pass codes so a loved one could help you, should the information ever be needed. 


The Digital Keys to Your Estate

digital keyIn the past week, The New York Times has run two stories on two different angles of our modern-day lives. 

The first story posted on May 24th Leaving Behind the Digital Keys to Financial Lives discusses the real life issue created that is not being addressed in current financial or estate planning. Our financial lives are online – we have paperless statements, automated bill payments as well as credit cards on file with several of our treasured online services. If you have not documented these, your loved ones would have no clue on how to access this information. This goes beyond the roster of accounts and includes the online access codes and details with those accounts. This is the prime problem I created the MemoryBanc Register to solve — it helps individuals catalog and share this information if it is ever needed. 

What most American’s fail to recognize is that until our 80s, we are more likely to suffer a disability than die. You may very well be on this planet and need to have someone in your life access and manage your affairs for you – if even only temporarily.

Don’t forget about the $58 billion sitting in state and federal treasuries. This is not a new problem.

The second story is from May 25th Bequeathing the Keys to Your Digital Afterlife which deals with the issue of all those online assets, like photographs or even your blog. Google is the first to set up a provision for this and hopefully, the other online firms will follow. Hoped.

How about you?  Take this quick poll now.

The Dirty Remants of your Digital Footprint

digital printLast month, Google announced the provision for an inactive account manager. This offers a reasonable solution to the standard online user agreements that only allow one user and lock your account after inactivity. Bravo to Google who is the first to address this under-served need.

This is a larger issue for all of us and I will guess you may not have realized how this impacts your day-to-day life. It’s one of the biggest pain points my clients have faced when a loved one is incapacitated — if even only temporarily. But on a daily basis I speak with individuals who were unaware of how those user agreements might impact your digital account access.

Most couples are totally unaware that the two log-ins you use to access your joint bank account are really two separate accounts. For instance, did you know that any bill pay items set up under your username are not available or viewable to the person you share the account with?  This can create big headaches for families if there is a temporary crisis and you don’t know what electronic bills are already scheduled.

The proliferation of online accounts and a way to share or transfer these digital assets should be a growing concern to all bloggers and active online users. I previously posted a story on Who Controls your Digital Legacy from The New York Times. This story highlights the loss family members feel when they are locked out of a loved ones online life and how most of the user agreements you accepted have no solution for managing this issue.  Google is the first to set up a solution for the transfer of the information if the user chooses after inactivity.

In short, most “user agreements” only allow you to use the account you have created and your rights to that account are gone when you are unable to access them. I have faced the frustration that this limited user agreement offers and hope you will consider:

  1. Sharing usernames and passcodes to joint financial accounts. My husband and I share one online access account so we can both see the same information and bill payments. 
  2. Writing down and telling someone where you have put the information for your primary online accounts. This will allow your loved ones to easily manage a password reset to get into the account if needed.
  3. Noting which accounts are linked to credit cards. Last month, I left my business credit card at a restaurant and it was destroyed. When I got my new card, I could easily update my online accounts that used this card to pay for services without any interruption.

The Internet and mobile services we now have deliver many conveniences — however, it’s also created tentacles to our lives digitally that most are struggling to manage for themselves.

If you need any help in getting this information organized, consider getting the MemoryBanc Register which prompts you though the collection of this key information. If you would like to pull this together yourself, you can also download a free guide to help you collect the key information and accounts from our home page. Prepared.


Who Controls YOUR Digital Legacy?

digital legacy graphicWhile this story doesn’t apply to my parents, it’s a wake up call to those of us with a myriad of online accounts and digital assets.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal on January 5, 2013, Life and Death Online, Who Controls a Digital Legacy? is a raw story that validates the meaning and sense of loss that could come if no one has access to your digital legacy.

At minimum, you should have documented your usernames and pass codes and told someone you trust where to find them. If you have done that, I urge you to go back and note which ones pull from credit cards or other online payment accounts. Help those who would step in to help by at least organizing your online estate.

A more robust exploration of this topic was done in The New York Times (2011) in Cyberspace When You’re Dead. It provides a variety of examples exploring both the impact of being able to continue to access the accounts to the added grief to those who lost access. While it does discuss some online options to protect your digital legacy — I continue to beat the drum to organize all of your materials in one place!

In a related story, several states seem to be discussing how to deal with digital estates.  A New Hampshire bill would give all access rights to the executor. I have talked to several Estate Attorneys who are now working with clients to identify a “digital executor” who may be different from the traditional executor  role. The same issues will be faced by both executors — where are all your personal, financial, online and household records and details?

Have you ever had to view the profile of a friend on Facebook or LinkedIn that passed? It’s disconcerting. Even worse, my husband told me about spam emails he’s getting from a friend who died over a year ago. Apparently the spammers have reached a new low. It won’t take you more than 20 minutes to create a quick list that could mean a lot to those around you. Preached.