You & Your Data: Managing Your Accounts
How many online accounts have you created? How many can you still log into? If you can’t answer the first question with a number and the second with something close to that number, you need to put some time into managing your accounts.
Having old or unsecured online accounts is a liability most of us have, and we either don’t understand the security implications or haven’t taken the time to get our accounts under control.
“Having old or unsecured online accounts is a liability most of us have.”
Making time for managing your online accounts is imperative, especially if you’ve ever entered personal information into a website profile. Leaving that info out there in an unused account leaves you vulnerable.
Ex: Why does a recipe website need my home address & birthday?
It doesn’t, and by putting in all the information the website asks for, you create a security risk if that account or website’s server is ever hacked. Your profile information may even show up through a Google search for your account name.
The truth is, every single second there are 291 data records being breached. To help make sure your records aren’t contributing to this number, my post is going to focus on managing your online accounts and making you a smaller target for malicious people (and aliens).
What Is Account Management?
Account management revolves around two main ideas, knowledge and control. Having knowledge of all the accounts you’ve created is important, as is knowing what personal information these accounts contain.
“Account management revolves around two main ideas, knowledge and control.”
After you’ve identified your accounts, you must then have control over them. I define this as the ability to log in, change your profile information, and (if you choose) delete the account.
As part of your control over log in, you will need to have access to the email address that was used to register your account.
Forgetting a password is something we all do, and if you are using an email you haven’t accessed recently this situation becomes even more likely. Making sure you can always log in to your accounts, whether they are websites or email, will ensure you’re always in control while using the web.
The idea behind managing your accounts is to prevent identity theft by taking an active role concerning your personally identifying information.
You’ll also get a large amount of control after you’ve vetted your accounts to ensure they’re not associated with an inaccessible email. Having access to the email used during account signup will allow you to log in to any online accounts you have, whenever you need to.
If you take the time to clean up your trail of accounts, deleting those you don’t use and verifying access for the ones you keep, the probability of your data being misused or stolen will reduce dramatically!
The main downside to managing your accounts is the time it takes. To first find all of your accounts, then delete the ones you don’t want, and finally change information on the ones you keep can take awhile.
I won’t lie to you, this could be a few hours, but PLEASE do it.
These accounts are a trail of breadcrumbs that lead to you, and sweeping up even a few makes it that much harder for anyone to find you & your data.
How To Do It, Part 1 — Identify & Delete
The first thing you must do is compile a list of the accounts you’ve created.
We actually have a free service for this at Dock called Find My Accounts. If you use gmail, we can scan it to find the accounts you’ve set up.
We will also give you the option delete your account through a GDPR compliant “removal request”.
To find the rest of your accounts outside of gmail, you should search through your inbox for “registration”, “confirm” or “welcome” and put the results in a list. Once you’ve compiled this list, you must then choose to “delete” or “keep” each account.
If you’re not using an automated service for account deletion, you’ll need to login and find the “delete account” option. You can also copy this “removal request” and email it to whomever you created that account with.
This last part may get tedious, but completing it will greatly reduce your digital footprint and provide you with awesome data security!
How To Do It, Part 2 — Control & Update
After you’ve sorted your list of accounts and deleted any you don’t want, the next step is to take control of the ones you need.
The best way to do this is by going down your list, logging into each account you’re keeping, and then navigating to your profile or settings page. Here you can review the information this account has on you, and see which email you used to register.
If this account has your home address, phone number, or any other information you don’t want available, now is your chance to change it. In the case that this info is required for functionality of the account, make a note that they have this information.
After vetting your account info, check that the email associated with this account is one you control. If it’s not, change it to one you do!
- Unless a company explicitly states they don’t make your profile information public, they probably do. Ask yourself if you want this personal info showing up in a search.
- For full control over an account, you must have access to two email accounts. The first is the email you registered at account creation, and the second is the recovery email used in case you forget the first email’s password. This a complicated subject, so rather than address it here I will include a post dealing with your Tree of Emails later on in the series.
- The time and effort to do this is worth it! A majority of identity theft and account hacks start with an old, unsecured account being compromised.
Thank you for reading this, our You & Your Data series is built on the idea of empowering Dockers to; “Take Action Today so You Control Your Data Tomorrow”.
That’s all for this post, our next one will be all about Password Management!
~ Matt, #tdytmrw