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There are three great tragedies of the Internet age – losing access to the internet, a serious malware infection that ultimately prevents access to the Internet, and forgetting passwords and thus losing access to online accounts. Two of these tragic events can easily be prevented or fixed, provided you took the necessary precautions.

This article will show you how to prepare your online accounts to make them recoverable. Should you ever forget the password or lose access because you were hacked, these steps will give you multiple ways to recover your account or at least keep the damage minimal.

I have previously written about 5 Things You Can Do NOW To Secure Your Facebook Account & Make It Recoverable 5 Things You Can Do NOW To Secure Your Facebook Account & Make It Recoverable 5 Things You Can Do NOW To Secure Your Facebook Account & Make It Recoverable To most of us this is the biggest nightmare. You want to log into your Facebook account and your password no longer works. In the worst of cases, someone managed to hack your account and... Read More , which contains points specific to Facebook. If you are looking for ways to regain access to your Facebook account right now, read How To Recover Your Facebook Account When You Can No Longer Log In How To Recover Your Facebook Account When You Can No Longer Log In How To Recover Your Facebook Account When You Can No Longer Log In Has your Facebook account been hacked or did you forget your password and can no longer access it? You are not alone! Dozens of people turn to us with similar questions every day. Unfortunately, the... Read More .

1. Add Or Update Alternative Email Addresses

All your online accounts will allow you to set a contact email address or an alternative email address, which will be used in case you need to reset your password. Make sure you set such an email address and update it in case it changes.

2. Add Or Update Mobile Numbers

Most webmail providers and for example Facebook also allow you to reset your password via a mobile number, provided you have a number with a supported carrier. If your country and your mobile carrier is supported, you should set a mobile number for account recovery. Since mobile numbers tend to change more often than email addresses, be extra sure you keep it up to date.

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If you are looking for a way to recover your Gmail account, have a look at this article: How To Recover Lost Gmail Password With A SMS Message How To Recover Lost Gmail Password With A SMS Message How To Recover Lost Gmail Password With A SMS Message Read More

3. Set & Update Security Questions

The security question provides yet another way to recover your account. However, with time you may actually forget the answer to your security question or you may find that it is too easy to guess for people that know you a little. That’s why you should regularly review and eventually update your security question.

4. Set Unique Passwords For Every Single Account

There is at least one good reason why you should maintain unique passwords for your accounts. If one of your accounts gets hacked and the hacker knows your password, they can also access all your other accounts with that same password. Not only will this give them access to your entire correspondence and private data, with the password they can change information that otherwise would have let you recover these accounts. Finally, if they are smart, they will change the password itself. If this happens, you are indefinitely locked out of all your accounts with almost no chance to recover any of them. In other words, you are screwed.

Better set a unique password for each and every account. Here are some articles that may help:

5. Securely Store Passwords & Answers To Security Questions

If you cannot trust your memory, it maybe safer to keep a copy of your passwords and security questions. There are multiple ways to do this, but I recommend the following: use a password manager and write down your security questions and answers into a small booklet or address book you always carry with you.

Here are articles about managing passwords you may want to look into:

Did you ever need to recover an account and what was it that saved your neck?

Image credits: Road to Recovery via Shutterstock, Account Login via Shutterstock, Top Secret Folder via Shutterstock

  1. Tom Sobieski
    July 15, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Yahoo? really, Yahoo?? People are still using Yahoo? Crap, don't that beat all.

    • Naveen Nandakumar
      July 17, 2012 at 3:52 am

      what if you have a super simple, easy to share yahoo address? Why would I give that up? I have a 3 letter yahoo email address. I'm still half the age of the average yahoo user, i think.

  2. Oron
    July 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for a really interesting article Tina. You covered a wide range of issues, but I'd like to point out that if someone manages to hack into your account, they can glean the security information from it, and use it elsewhere, so we're in a bit of a catch 22 situation - the more security is applied to the account, the greater the danger from a possible breach, and this problem will continue to escalate until a completely different security system is invented!
    I have no solution for this, but would say that anyone who has had their account hacked, and have a fair idea who the hacker is, should pursue it with the police or other relevant authorities. If they don't they're merely setting themselves up for further problems in the future (just as happened Rob's son).

    • Tina
      July 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      True indeed. Passwords and answers to security questions should not be revealed, not even to the legitimate user. However, once someone has access to an account, chances are they will find information that can be used to cause further damage.

  3. Ben
    July 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I all of us internet user were conscientious on matters security, hackers would have a very hard time going about their business. Great article.

  4. Paul Girardin
    July 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Good article!

    I used to have a very easy (and not so secure) password and tons of little notes that would be impossible to find when I needed them ;)

    But for a few years now, I have been using Roboform to store my passwords (and to create new secure ones with the built-in generator) and have no regrets.

    Even if I did not like that they stopped offering their lifetime upgrade when they upgraded to version 7 (I had to stay with Firefox 3 for a while because of this), I still liked the ease of use and apparent simplicity of the program (Don't worry, it is not so simple. In fact, it can be rather complex and powerful).

    But I was fortunate enough to win a free license recently (on an internet forum) so I now have it in the latest version of Firefox, in IE 9 and in Google Chrome (unfortunately, it is broken in the latest version of Opera).

    So anyways, it is important to safeguard yourself by any means (whatever the program or strategy you use) and this article comes at just the right time.

    And remenber, you are NEVER too secure!

    • Tina
      July 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      Thanks for discussing your experience with Roboform!

      There are a lot of ways to store passwords and create secure ones. I have added some of the links in the article above.

    • Tom Sobieski
      July 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

      Ever since the beginning of the Interwebz ( a long time ago for me, because I'm older than dirt) I have used really obscure, but easy to remember (at least for me) passwords, because I have a facility for languages and they're all in another language.
      And the words are all obscure, because they were family "cute" words, and add some random, and not sorandom capitalization, then add the numeric equivalent of the letters on say, a telephone keypad, , throw in a punctuation mark at a point only I would think appropriate, and bippety-boppity-boo, extra safe passwords.

  5. Rob Hindle
    July 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    A few supplementary comments:

    Do think about more than just the anonymous hacker, my son had a big problem with a former girlfriend who made determined efforts to take over his email and social networking accounts. Initially she'd got access by shoulder surfing his password. Having got in she changed all the reminder options. It wasn't easy but he was eventually able to regain control. Then he used a security question for which she was able to find the answer so he was back to square one.

    Common suggestions for ecret question and answer are "your first school", "Mother's maiden name" - the answers may be discoverable by a third party (ex girlfriend!). It is OK to use those reminder questions, just don't use the "correct" answer. Set the name of your first school or mothers maiden name to be something quite different like "albatross".

    Don't try to be "clever" with passwords. Nobody would ever think of using NCC1701 would they? Wrong (if you don't know why, Google it!).

    Consider using Gmail's two factor security - the problem with this is understanding how it works, how to set it up and use it, the documentation is lengthy but inadequate. Don't use any but your own PC/phone or use those with a third party WiFi connection unless you have two factor email security enabled. Two factor security prevents logon from any but your own usual PC, Phone, Laptop unless you enter a second one-time password. So a hacker may get your normal password but won't be able to use it.

    In Gmail there is an option to view "details of last account activity". It only takes a few seconds to look and see if anything unusual has been happening.

    Don't regard email passwords as a minor issue "who cares if someone reads my email, it's just chit-chat I've got no secrets". Wrong. If a malicious person gets into your account if you are lucky all they'll do is use it to send spam or malware to everyone in your address book. However they can do far more damage:

    They can get password reminders from other online services sent there.

    They can impersonate you. The previously mentioned evil ex girlfriend sent perverted sexually explicit messages to anyone with a female name and homosexual proposals to the males.

    I know 3 people whose friends all got a personal email along the lines of "Hi, please can you help me. I'm on holiday in Spain and my car has been impounded, I urgently need 3000 euros to get it released and I'm not carrying that kind of money. I will refund you as soon as I get back home next week." In all 3 cases someone DID help out, sending the cash via Western Union (hence unrecoverable). In my opinion the owner of the email account was at fault for having inadequate security and should refund his friends - but what if several friends had "helped" him? The bill could be impossibly large. (In my opinion Western Union should be regarded by the authorities as guilty of money laundering - but it seems not...)

    Another friend owns a holiday villa. Someone hacked her email account and set a filter such that rental enquiries were intercepted, forwarded elsewhere and deleted from the account. The hacker then responded to enquiries offering a really good deal (reduced price, free use of the car parked at the villa) for prompt booking and payment (Western Union again of course). She and the holiday maker were unaware that anything had gone wrong until much later.

    • Tina
      July 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      Rob,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and detailed reflections! There is a ton of great advice in your comment, worth at least two more articles. Just wanted to let you know that I very much appreciate your contribution.

      I have had an article about security questions on my list since submitting this article last week. So this will be coming up soon.

    • Oron
      July 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      That's an excellent response Rob, kudos!

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