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Directive has been serving the Oneonta area since 1993, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Get Your Online Accounts In Order - Part 1

Get Your Online Accounts In Order - Part 1

Google, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix, eBay, Paypal, Hulu, Spectrum, NYSEG, Microsoft—most of us have an overwhelming number of online accounts. That’s not only a lot of entities that have information about you, but you want to be able to access these accounts when you need them without having to do a bunch of detective work just to find your credentials.

I’m going to make your online footprint so much easier to manage. It takes a little bit of work, but let me tell you, this is going to save you a ton of time, and prevent a whole lot of stress.

Let’s Start with a Story

Let me take you back to Christmas of last year. My parents are really hard to buy stuff for. They have everything they need! Usually, my mom wants a book or two, and you can’t even get a suggestion out of my dad. Fortunately, over the last couple of years, my brother and I have been getting our dad into fantasy novels. Getting the parents a couple of Kindle ebook readers seemed like the way to go (and it was, they use them all the time!).

Amazon has a neat feature where you can buy someone a Kindle ebook and have it delivered to their email address on a certain day. My brother and I bought both our parents a handful of books and scheduled them to get delivered Christmas morning, knowing that the parents would open up their Kindles before they bothered looking at their email.

All of that worked according to plan, but there was one major roadblock…

Christmas morning arrived.

The Kindles were unwrapped.

We took our parents upstairs to their computers and had them check their email.

They received the emails from Amazon, but couldn’t accept the gifts because they couldn’t get into their Amazon accounts to accept them.

Both parents had two separate issues. Our mother didn’t know the password for her Amazon account. She uses it all of the time on her tablet to order things, but she doesn’t use it on her desktop. We had to reset it and help her get logged back into her tablet, and helped her store the password securely. Our father was having an even harder time.

He didn’t remember if he had an Amazon account. We knew he had one, so we walked him through recovering his account. It turns out it was tied to an old Hotmail account, which he also didn’t know the password for. It was another situation where he just relied on his browser to remember everything for him, but he only used this email on his work computer.

Long story short, it was a mess, and took a good 45 minutes of sleuthing before we could get back to Christmas.

Now, this isn’t all that bad and in the end, everything turned out fine. That said, getting access to an account shouldn’t be any sort of challenge. In this post, we’re going to talk about how to get control over your online footprint, and in a few days we’ll publish another post about the importance of controlling things for your business (there are even more pitfalls for organizations).

Pick an Email for All of Your Accounts

Keep in mind, we’re just talking about your personal online footprint, not your business one. We recommend getting your house in order before you start to tackle your business, as you are probably going to learn a lot along the way. Plus, your business is going to be much more complicated as it involves other people.

The first thing you need to do is establish your one email to rule all of your online accounts. 

This can be your personal email that you’ve been using for years, but that email should meet a few specific requirements.

  1. It needs to be an email address you fully control (in other words, not a work email address unless you are the owner and never plan on changing that).
  2. It needs to be hosted by a service or entity that isn’t going away anytime soon.
  3. You absolutely need to be able to lock down this email with 2-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication.

If your personal email doesn’t support these three requirements, plan on getting an email account just for your accounts. 

For example, if you are using your old college email account, or one provided by your Internet Service Provider, and you don’t specifically know what their policy is on the longevity of the account, you really shouldn’t be tying all of your online accounts to that email.

I’d personally advise to not use a Yahoo.com email, as back in 2017, nearly every single Yahoo account was exposed to hackers in one of the largest cybersecurity incidents of all time. That puts a pretty sour taste in my mouth. 

It’s also not a great idea to use an email account for a personal domain that you own. If you own the domain name for your name dot com, you can certainly set up email addresses for yourself. However, this overcomplicates the whole system, since the account you registered your domain under definitely shouldn’t be owned by an email address under that domain. It opens you up to a huge security gap. Plus, if you decide to sell your domain or forget to renew it, suddenly you won’t have access to the email. Trust me, this is a huge, risky hassle. 

Your best bet is to use a Gmail account. Gmail has been around since 2004, and it’s pretty likely the service is here to stay. Plus, Gmail definitely supports Multi-Factor Authentication and plenty of other security measures to protect your account. If you already have a Google account (you definitely do if you have an Android phone or use any number of Google’s other services) then you already have a Gmail account. Remember, we’re not trying to create new accounts if we don’t have to!

Once you’ve decided what email address will rule over all of your accounts, it’s time to do some general housekeeping.

Secure That Email Account

Whether you’ve had your email address for years or it’s a brand new account, give it a new, secure password. Yep, I’m asking you to change your email password before you move on to the next step.

We literally wrote the guide on password best practices, but in short, it needs to be complex, unique, and not have any identifying information in it. Don’t put your birthdate or birth year in it. Use capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. It should be at least 16 characters long at a minimum. For now, write down the password. If you have a personal safe, you could label it, date it, and lock it away. 

Now go into your email account and make sure Two-Factor Authentication is set up. If it’s a Gmail account, log into accounts.google.com and click Security on the side. If you opted to use a different email service, you might need to do a quick Google search on how to enable Two-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication to find the settings. If your email provider doesn’t offer this, start over and use your Google/Gmail account if you have one already, or create a Gmail account.

While you are there, make sure you fill out any recovery options you can. If you have another email account you access regularly, set that up as a recovery email, or use your personal phone number. Just remember, if you end up changing your phone number down the road, you’ll want to update this.

By now, you should have identified the singular email address you will use for all of your accounts and you’ve taken steps to totally protect it, while making sure you’ll always have access to it. You should be the only human being on the planet who can ever log into this email account.

Set Up a Password Manager

Remember how I had you write down your email password and had you store it in a safe? You are only going to write down one more password. After that, you will never write down another password ever again.

You are going to get yourself a password manager to handle the rest.

You are NOT going to rely on your web browser to remember your passwords. That’s not very secure, and it doesn’t help you if you are on a different device.

There are plenty of password managers out there. We usually recommend Keeper for both business and personal use. There are other options out there, like 1password, Dashlane, Bitwarden, LastPass and KeePass. All of them have their pros and cons. If you don’t feel like spending time doing your research, and you don’t use one of these already, just use Keeper. We use Keeper for our own organization and to help our clients manage their passwords across all of their staff, so it is definitely one of the most robust solutions. Keeper offers a 30-day free trial, and after that, it’s around $35 a year for a single personal account. 

Keep in mind business and family pricing is a little different, but you can’t really go wrong for less than $3/month. If you are interested in having Keeper set up for your whole business, definitely reach out to us.

Check out our guide on setting up a Free Keeper account 

Steps to Clean Up and Secure an Online Account

  1. Go to the website, find their login option, and log into the account.
    • a. If you can’t log in (you don’t know the password, username, etc.) attempt to reset the password. Most sites have a “Forgot Password” option. This will likely email you, and if you’ve been using multiple email accounts, you might need to go on a wild goose chase to find it.
  2. Once logged in, look for account settings. It will be different for every website. For popular sites like Facebook, Google, Linked In, online bank accounts, and more, you can usually just do a quick Google search on “how to manage my account on ____” or “how to change my password on _____”
  3. Verify what email address that account is linked to. If it’s linked to an email address that isn’t your one email address that we’ve been talking about, change it. Most of the time, it will make you verify that new email address, so make sure to check both inboxes and follow any instructions that are sent.
  4. While you are at it, update the password to something new and secure. While doing all of this, go to Keeper (or your password manager of choice) in another browser tab and see if that account is already imported. If it is, edit it with the new email and password. If it’s not, create a new entry or allow your password manager to automatically do it for you. Always verify that it was created! Sometimes, a website might be built in a way that doesn’t cause a password manager to trigger and ask to remember a password.
  5. Look for options to set up Two-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication. Set them up on every account you can. Verify to make sure that your contact information is correct throughout the account.
  6. Make a new bookmark folder in your browser. You can do this by right-clicking your bookmark bar and selecting New Folder. Call it Accounts. Save the login page as a bookmark in that bookmark folder. This is a bonus step, since everything will be in your password manager anyway, but it’s nice to have an easy-to-access list of all of your accounts front and center.

Rinse and repeat for every single online account you have. 

You might need to sift through old emails, pace around your living room, or lay in bed staring at the ceiling before every single account comes to mind, but take your time and be diligent. Follow these steps every time you go to create a new account somewhere, too, no matter how small. Another good idea is to look through your credit card statements over the last 12 months. That can sometimes remind you of the places online that you’ve made purchases, or set up subscriptions for. 

When I did this for myself, I thought I had everything, but I was running into random little accounts to secure even months after. It takes time and diligence, but your life will become so much easier once it's done.

Stay tuned for part two, where we dive into how to gain control over your business’ online footprint and why it is absolutely crucial to do so.

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Wednesday, June 29 2022

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