Digital assets? What in the world are digital assets?
You know about assets (savings and investments) in a bank account, jewelry or a car. Assets are all those things that have value and can be converted to cash. In today’s Internet world, we are now realizing another asset that has significant value.
Digital assets are those accounts and passcodes we have come to rely on daily to gain access to checking accounts, credit-card records, savings and investment accounts, shopping online, online entertainment or rewards accounts.
Social media sites also require passcodes for access. Having a passcode to access smartphones, tablets and computers is commonplace and recommended.
Our computers, smartphones, financial accounts and Web-based lists are getting hacked at a higher frequency and more sophisticated level. It was disconcerting to me last night to receive a phone call from a man with a heavy accent telling me that he needed remote access to my computer because it was showing a serious malware and he could fix it from another continent! It made me start stressing about the personal information stored. How accessible is it? I can’t always remember when I need it, but I bet a hacker might well be able to tell me.
We tend to reuse the same passcode for several systems, typically use plain text or numbers and rarely characters, and are short. The most common are “password,” “123456” or a pet or child’s name. Start by looking at yours. Review your passwords and email addresses used. When was the last time they were changed? How complicated are they? Most of us use the same passcodes and email address for Gmail, PayPal, our online bank accounts and social media accounts. Do you use auto fill so you don’t have to fill in critical information such as passcodes and credit information? Someone else can, too. You are inviting hackers to help themselves and making it easy for them.
A second step is to create a list of all accounts, passwords and security question answers (work and personal). This will take some time, but start by jotting the information down on a pad each day. Then evaluate the passcode if it needs to be changed. Change passcodes regularly.
Then there are a few more steps to keep your digital and financial existence in good shape whether you are hacked, incapacitated or die. Maintain a list of digital information (URLs, passcodes, email address used, security questions and answers); send this to someone you trust, and make sure others know who has the most current information. Now investigate online digital vaults, aka the cloud.
There are websites and tools to upload and store account names and passcodes. The cloud promise security, but few of us use them, and if we do, we don’t update them or just use them to store music and personal pictures. Investigate the variety of digital vaults. They vary based on how much data can be stored, cost and best type of data to store. Good places to start are www.thedigitalbeyond.com/online-services-list and www.lifeinsurancefinder.com.au/infographics/expert-guide-to-protect-yourself-online-before-you-die/.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.