Don’t lose your online/digital ID!

In this news brief we are going to highlight a recent issue with our email accounts (being our digital ID) and loss of credentials fallout; along with positive preventative action we can take to avoid this increasingly common disaster.

In recent times our emails have gradually become a critical component in our “online/digital identity”; your email address is virtually equivalent to a passport, and your phone number to a driver’s license. With emails we take it for granted that you could set up an email and have it for life.

Yet now our emails, our identity, can be taken away for seemingly no reason at all.

What can happen if you lose your email?

Phones, tablets and computers can be locked out with no way to get your data off them; and in some cases, being locked out means not just losing your data, but rendering your $1k or $2k device a proverbial door stop. Throw it in the bin, just because of a silly email your phone is locked to that you may not even know about.

Online subscriptions and purchases like Microsoft Office use email authentication to move them from one device to another when you upgrade or repair. Without your email, you may just have to buy the software all over again.

Online payment systems are now linked to your email and phone credentials, effectively making it your pin and card all in one. Therefore, lose your email or phone and you’ll also lose your digital wallet.

The content of the emails themselves can disappear; communication history, contacts, saved photos, documents, addresses, invoices, tax evidence, medical appointments, flight tickets, concert tickets, invites….. and the list goes on. Suddenly gone.

What has changed? Why the increased risk now?

Put simply this “free” email that you might think is “yours” is not really yours; it actually belongs to the host company that the email extension belongs to. For example, is owned by Google and is owned by Telstra.

What this means is these primary host companies can revoke the gratis use of “your” personal email at any time, with no warning, if you don’t follow their rules, otherwise known as “VIOLATING THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS”. T’s and C’s buried so deep within some wordy lawyer stuff that you probably never read in the first place; because you know T’s and C’s fluidly change from month to month to suit the host company interests anyway; without any end user negotiation of the contract. And some of these companies have now begun to do just this; “Your email has been revoked due to a violation of our terms and conditions”.

What new things are most likely to catch you off guard resulting in the loss of “your” email?

1. Not logging into your email often enough or
2. Missing or changing just one of your several recovery options or
3. Being under 18 or identifying as being under 18

Don’t think it’s not common… at the time of writing in only the last 2 days, one of our customers reported losing their new Gmail for not logging into it for a few weeks, and unfortunately this email was also used for business. In another case this week the bad news had to be delivered to someone that their brand-new iPhone may need to be tossed in the bin due to an orphaned email. And yet another who made a mistake on the year they were born had to start all over again.

What steps can you take to keep your email?

Prevention is the ONLY option; auditing of all the emails attached to all your devices:

1. Check your credentials are correct looking for the following:
        a. Misspelt or inaccurate credentials such as name and DOB
        b. Your recovery emails, devices, and phone numbers are all correct and up to date
        c. Your recovery email address is not set to “itself”; the dreaded infinite loop
        d. Remove any outdated recovery options…they invalidate the working ones.
        e. Security questions should be simple rigid answers with no capitals or spaces
        d. Your password is complicated enough to not guess, and not be used elsewhere

2. Use your email, don’t let it sit there. “Squatting” on an email gets you banned.

3. Don’t publicly list your main email or use it for filling out random “win me” forms on the internet to avoid being a hacker or spam-bot target.

4. If you’re a business, make sure your email is with an rather than the “free” offerings designed for personal use, not to mention much more professional looking. Don’t list your email on the website, use a contact form. If you need help with this sort of thing, Warragul Computer Repair offers web design and hosting service setup.

5. When you get a new phone or phone number or email address… check that your old phone number or email or phone is completely removed from any accounts.

6 Make an offline backup of your email, and avoid letting your email become to over-full.

7 In the case of internet companies such as Aussie Broadband, Telstra, Swoop and Optus; just changing providers will result in revocation of your email unless you arrange to rent it off them for a monthly expense…. Check on this before moving providers.

Surely there’s an easier way to keep emails secure?

Fortunately, Warragul Computer Repair has your back, and are happy to do a comprehensive email credential check for you. For most this can be done on-the-spot and should take under 10 minutes. Certainly worth the peace of mind and if it does need fixing it could well just save you a lot in the long run.

Call us on 03 56232 777 to book in a time, or drop in to our new store at 2 – 4 Smith St.