back to article Password recovery from beyond the grave

Every disaster recovery plan needs to contain the "hit by a bus" scenario. But have you ever retrieved a password from beyond the grave? One Register reader has. Welcome to On Call. Today's tale, told by a reader Regomized as "Mark" takes us back some 15 years when he was handling the IT needs for a doctor's office. The job …

  1. John Robson Silver badge

    Good planning on behalf of the office staff... how much was triggered by their poorly condition is unknown.

    Currently have two copies of the password manager master password printed out, one kept with the charity secretary, the other in the charity safe.. That means at least two buildings, and anything devastating enough to take both of those out is probably beyond reasonable scope.

    1. SminkyBazzA

      Re: dundancy

      Not to cast aspersions but hopefully someone occasionally checks that the charity secretary isn't keeping their copy in the charity safe too - especially if the role has changed hands a few times.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: dundancy

        I was in a DR situation a few years ago and we got the procedures out of the safe in the archive. The poorly DB server was running Linux and the documentation described a Windows restore....

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: dundancy

          Oof - that's not good.

          I was half expecting the paper to have degraded..

        2. ITMA Bronze badge

          Re: dundancy

          Count yourself lucky it was capable of running anything.....

          At least you HAD a server in your DR setup.

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: dundancy

        Yes - they keep it at their house.

        Safe enough for our purposes.

        To be fair even having just a copy in the charity safe would likely be good enough - the likelihood of both me (and all my cloud systems) being made unavailable at the same time as the church safe, but *not* the secretary's house is... vanishingly small.

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: dundancy

          Only if you never go near said safe. If you're onsite to get killed by a fire which also takes out the safe, it's only one incident.

          Agreed, if you're not there, and we're talking multiple locations, it's going to need a nuclear holocaust or similar and at that point you won't care.

    2. Plest Silver badge

      Apologies, this reminded me of the farce episode of Citizen Smith where Wolfie and co break in Fenning's office to steal something valuable for a bent copper and it goes like this...

      "where's the key for the safe?"

      "It's in the locked drawer."

      "where's the key for the drawer?"

      "hope it's not in the safe?!"

    3. ITMA Bronze badge
      FAIL

      Of course we should not forget the best way of recovering passwords "from beyond the grave"...

      Don't use any at all or use ones so short and weak that you can guess them in 2ms flat.

      What do you mean "that is our standard network password policy"???

  2. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    Hopefully Mark checked the envelope to make sure no one had doctored it...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Real Hero of the Story

    The receptionist who, as one of their parting thoughts, wrote l down that password.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: The Real Hero of the Story

      > The receptionist who, as one of their parting thoughts, wrote l down that password.

      But also told her friend: only give it to Mark if he turns up to my funeral?!?

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: The Real Hero of the Story

        Yes, that's a strange way to relay such a crucial piece of information. But people do what they do, this is far from the strangest thing ever done.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: The Real Hero of the Story

          Are you Marty? I said is your name Marty McFly?

          Yeah. I mean, ugh, yeah?

          I got something for you... a letter.

          A letter? For me? That's impossible!

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The Real Hero of the Story

        The instruction may just have been "Give this to Mark" and this was the first opportunity.

      3. oiseau Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: The Real Hero of the Story

        Hello:

        > But also told her friend: only give it to Mark ...

        Indeed.

        But ... her friend?

        Just how do you know they what gender they were?

        The article's wording is conspicuously uses they, their, etc to obscure the fact.

        ... by being informed that they no longer had any need of my services.

        I'm sure there's a clue to that somewhere.

        Just not evident.

        O.

        1. chas49

          Re: The Real Hero of the Story

          The article includes:

          ' "I've been asked to give you a letter," said the woman.b

          1. oiseau Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: The Real Hero of the Story

            "I've been asked to give you a letter," said the woman.

            Yes, I've read the article.

            The woman you are making reference to was the deceased recepcionist's friend.

            ie: the person charged with handing the envelope over to the tech should he show up at the wake.

            You don't think it was the the deceased receptionist, do you?

            O.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: The Real Hero of the Story

      Absolutely. She was one of the smart ones, and clearly learned a lot from him whilst he was doing their IT.

      Chances are that at some point that woman would have been at the office when Mark was, so the handover would still have been completed. But at a funeral? That's a nice touch ;-)

      1. oiseau Silver badge

        Re: The Real Hero of the Story

        Absolutely. She was one of the smart ones ...

        Again ...

        She?

        Just where in the article does it say that the receptionist was of the female gender?

        ---

        ... they had been poorly for some time ...

        Their sudden departure ...

        ---

        Why is it taken for granted that the receptionist is was a woman?

        Well?

        O.

  4. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    R.I.P.

    One year three of my actual or former work colleagues died. Two just 'dropped dead' at work or on holiday without any warning, the third had, what he described as 'non-treatable bowel cancer'. As a consultant I have occasionally mentioned to clients that they need to have a plan for what happens if someone important is 'run over by a bus', but I've never suggested putting the SysAdmin password in an envelope to be delivered to someone at your funeral. Great, if somewhat macabre, forward thinking.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: R.I.P.

      A few years ago I went off for a long Bank Holiday weekend, had an argument with gravity and then didn't reappear at work until the summer. Since that day I've always been very careful to make sure the bus factor is >1

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: R.I.P.

        @Korev, I hope you are better now.

        Question: What do the Rock Climber Jonny Dawes and the Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker specifically have in common?

        Answer: They have both fallen off a climb and suffered a fractured pelvis. (O U C H !!)

        Gravity does have this habit of winning arguments.

        1. gotes

          Re: R.I.P.

          Oh, I was hoping Jonny Dawes had got his arse out on stage during a Michael Jackson performance.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: R.I.P.

            Judging by his autobiography 'Full of Myself'* he may very well have.

            *The title is, if anything, somewhat misleadingly modest about Mr Dawes' self image (IMHO).

            "Full of Myself" by Johnny** Dawes, ISBN 9-780957-030800

            **Yes, sorry, he's a "Johnny", not a "Jonny", apologies for the distress caused by my error.

        2. Korev Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: R.I.P.

          > @Korev, I hope you are better now.

          Better, but I'll never be the same again.

          Thank you for your kind wishes

      2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: R.I.P.

        I did that a decade ago, dangling under a kite, with a kite buggy strapped to my arse! (Un)fortunately I was being made redundant three days later, so the three months I lost before being able to get back to w**king were done on my own time and dime!

        1. LogicGate

          Re: R.I.P.

          ** = <an>?

      3. PRR Bronze badge

        Re: R.I.P.

        > ...had an argument with gravity and then didn't reappear at work until the summer.

        Several decades ago--- I felt poorly for a week but came to work 4 days because we were FINALLY getting ethernet internet in my building and I was pulling odd wires that the contractor disliked. But I did feel terrible, so the 5th day I went to walk-in health clinic. They poked me a few minutes and called the hospital. Too-long story short: at midnight they opened me like a fish-fillet. Gut infection. Which got worse after they disturbed the cyst, but it was going to get worse whatever. I came much too close to cashing-in my $200 funeral benefit. A week of a then-new STRONG antibiotic (by the quart IV) pulled me through for a month+ of recovery. Lots of time to think about how nice it was to be alive. And how some "important" things were not really so important.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: R.I.P.

          Coincidentally there is an article about a 'Coffin Confessor' in the news:

          https://inews.co.uk/news/world/coffin-confessor-bill-edgar-last-wishes-sex-toys-funerals-1686042

          This chap 'crashes' funerals at the wishes of the deceased and, well, says what he is told to say.

          (Hopefully not all of this is applicable to readers of the Register:

          "Many of his requests revolve around fears over being buried or cremated while still alive and Mr Edgar said his most confronting request was so pinprick a dead body to ensure the person was really gone.

          Other requests include being buried with beloved items such as a motorbike, or making sure people are lying face down or vertically rather than on their backs. One London man asked if Mr Edgar would attend a private viewing of his body before his family did to strip him naked, lie him face down with the words ‘KISS THIS’ written across his arse."

        2. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: R.I.P.

          A similar thing happened to my dad a little over a year ago. He likewise made it through alive but had a longer recovery period. His infection had gone on long enough before really getting nasty that it did permanent organ damage. He elected to retire a couple of years early and is now taking it easy in rural NI, keeping himself occupied with household DIY and tinkering with classic motorbikes.

          Happy to hear you made it through as well.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: R.I.P.

      Yes, people always titter nervously when I say "And what happens when X gets run over by a bus?" about some colleagues in certain positions in the company that would, if disaster were to strike, potentially leave us all in the proverbial canoe without a paddle, up a creek...

      I guess people don't like being confronted with a crass "yeah but what if..." but I keep making that point because I do get concerned that some people just won't have the ability to recover critical services if they *don't* face the fact that accidents happen, people in critical positions will die in some form or fashion, and that sticking your head in the sand whilst chanting "la-la-la, don't wanna hear it, la-la-la" will not protect you or your business from that reality!

      I also get concerned when I see multiple business-critical people on the same plane together. As much as flying *is* safe, and the chances of something catastrophic happening are minute, never should a bunch of people working together for the same organisation in the same function be on the same plane.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: R.I.P.

        You could vary it - "What if so-and-so is fired and marched out of the building?"

        As to being in the same plane, travelling in the same car is as likely a risk.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          So-and-so is fired and marched out of the building

          I had a temporary position recoving the IT business processes after one of those. In this case reasonably simple things like "how to create a new user, how to allocate a phone, how to register them in the Spam system, what the naming convention is, what the server paths are". Yes, and crucially, where the passwords are stored. Everything was in the former IT's head, I spent four (half) weeks recovering them and Writing Them Down, and proofing them by implementing them a couple of dozen times and refining them.

          And one thing many people seem to forget - ensuring all the documentation had the path to itself in the footer of the documents, so they were re-findable from a printout..

        2. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: R.I.P.

          Nooooo... that's not sudden enough. Being run over by a bus is something significantly more sudden than being given instant P45-and-marching-orders.

    4. JBowler

      Re: R.I.P.

      Nice that you are a doctor, but the patient records were not the issue:

      >His contact dealt with all the correspondence for the office and had, without his instruction, enabled FileVault.

      That's way outside the doctor league.

      I can understand why she passed it to a person she trusted who didn't know what it was with instructions to pass it on to a person she trusted who did, but why? The data is irrelevant unless the practice wants to engage in a lawsuit.

      My in-case-of-death backup is uncrackable encryption. What I know and didn't tell someone else stays with me, like my valuable collection of 3.25" disks.

  5. Pomgolian

    Not happened to me, but

    On the advice of my lawyer, I have an envelope somewhere in the pile of papers on my desk, addressed to her indoors. It contains all the important passwords and whatnot for just about every significant account I have. Apparently lots of folks have wills, but lots don't leave their passwords available, and it's a 'mare shutting down accounts and gaining access.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Not happened to me, but

      I've made sure my mum has written down her passwords etc. in a notebook. Potentially useful for me in the (hopefully) distant future, but also handy for her if she forgets one.

      1. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: Not happened to me, but

        Both my parents have I devices, all their passwords are in iCloud. I have a fingerprint or face on their I devices and their PIN numbers somewhere.

        I think there is some new apple thing that enables you to grant access to your accounts to a family member once you’ve gone

        1. Screwed

          Re: Not happened to me, but

          Apple and Google both have arrangements. But Etsy’s policy is to agree it is a sensitive issue and refuse to discuss further. Which isn’t good for Etsy sellers, family, friends or customers.

          Partner does sell on Etsy and, after our next-door neighbour died recently, she decided to find out about all her accounts and arrangements.

          She was going to check eBay but hasn’t yet.

      2. ColinPa Silver badge

        Re: Not happened to me, but

        A friend's mother had a laptop. When she changed her password - she wrote it down in a file on her computer. My friend had given himself a userid on the machine, and managed to find the file, and retrieve the password. His mother loved crossword puzzles. The file was called something like Kyber.txt Because everyone has heard of the Kyber-Pass Word.

        1. Contrex

          Re: Not happened to me, but

          I've heard of the Khyber pass with a 'h', in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, so I would have tried that and passed on all unawares.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Not happened to me, but

            I've heard of the Khyber pass with a 'h', in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan

            Isn't that pass at the border with Afghanistan?

            1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Not happened to me, but

              As once patrolled by the The Devils in Skirts, the 3rd Foot & Mouth regiment

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQc2kGORXaA

              over in Snowdonia

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGshDSgVF-4

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Not happened to me, but

                Snowdonia?

                That must have been expensive for the location shots. They didn't normally go so far from Pinewood.

          2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Not happened to me, but

            I would have tried that and passed on all unawares.

            Carry On.

          3. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Kyber

            Isn't that one of Naruto's mates?

    2. Dave559 Silver badge

      Re: Not happened to me, but

      This is the scary thing: as more and more of us bank online these days, and often don't receive even annual statements by post, it's increasingly likely that family members will have no idea what bank accounts the deceased has, unless they have taken great care to note down all these details carefully before the chap with the scythe comes a-knocking at their door!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not happened to me, but

        not to worry after a public notice in the printed news paper somewhere very small... the government will have no issue with collecting those funds...

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Not happened to me, but

        What's written on the bank cards will be the first step. Then follow transfers between those accounts and any others. Just take care not to cremate the cards with the deceased.

      3. eionmac

        Re: Not happened to me, but

        One reason I have kept to Royal mail postal account statement delivery.

        The family will have account details.

    3. Stork Silver badge

      Re: Not happened to me, but

      We are doing that, including instructions as there are accounts etc in several countries due to our dynamic past.

      And our oldest knows of it, in case we depart simultaneously.

    4. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Not happened to me, but

      Yes, this is particularly now the case, especially when you have digital assets (like digital copies of books, music, etc). And social media (yeah, yeah, yeah...) also requires that now.

      I would not trust a business to close down my accounts. If anything, I would request that someone competent in my circle of friends to do exactly that.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not happened to me, but

      My good man, there's no way my wife is getting my passwords or mobile phone pin, even when I'm dead.

      She'd kill me.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Not happened to me, but

        Bit late for that by then, mate. Worse she could do is pee on your grave. Or set fire to it. ;-)

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Not happened to me, but

          She'd learn the satanic art of necromancy in order to raise you from the dead just so as she could kill you herself.

          Mine would.*

          * Not really. She's a spiritualist medium. I'd never get a minute's peace for all eternity.

    6. J. Cook Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Not happened to me, but

      THIS.

      Place I worked at a number of years ago had their IT manager pass on; I was the IT guy stationed in a different city, and the main office ultimately had a contractor come in to perform cleanup and whatnot.

      Part of that clean up was seizing control of nearly 50 dial up accounts that we used for the remote sites, and the company we were using at the time wanted a separate, certified copy of the death certificate for each one, which we all thought was ridiculous. We dumped that vendor immediately after resolving that debacle.

      One of the things on my personal "to do" list is to not only make a will, but put together a thing for the poor git that gets to deal with my estate the means to do so without having to go through that hell. I'm going to also have to have another talk with my parent about her password keeping habits as well...

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Not happened to me, but

        My mother died recently, and my father is dealing with probate, even though in her will she left everything of hers to him. My cousin is a solicitor and managed probate for his mother when she died, so my father asked him if it was ok to manage probate himself or should he get a lawyer (£250 per hour for the full probate service). My cousin said that probate is so complicated it is worth getting a lawyer to handle it, he had one for his mother's estate. You can get as much information together as possible to help, but at least in the UK, a probate lawyer is useful.

  6. Norman Nescio Silver badge

    Legal issues

    While the practical benefits of having a copy of passwords for role-based accounts are obvious, I'd be a little careful about using personal account passwords. For example, I'm not sure how banks would take it* if someone logged in to a personal account using the credentials of the deceased.

    The processes and procedures around dealing with incapacitating illness** of and death of account holders is one thing that many organisations are very poor at.

    *I'm pretty sure they'd take it badly.

    **One of the snags many people don't realise with Lasting Power of Attorney (used to be "Enduring Power of Attorney" before October 01, 2007) is that it ceases on the death of the person giving the power to someone else (the donor).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Legal issues

      This is when the law is an ass. How are they protecting the rights of the deceased by stopping the family from accessing the account?

      See also other online companies stealing the deceased's property at death. Blocking access to all the music they had purchased. Or even worse, the photo album!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Legal issues

        The reason the LPOA stops on decease is that it's no longer needed. The executor takes over.

        You won't have purchased any music on line. You'll have purchase the personal right to listen to it. Online storage is another matter (depending on the T&Cs) and this would be dealt with by ensuring the executor has the passwords.

      2. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: Legal issues

        "How are they protecting the rights of the deceased by stopping the family from accessing the account?"

        By ensuring the contents of said account are dealt with in accordance with whatever instructions the deceased left in their will?

        FWIW, a family member can act as executor of the will, in which case they'd have access to the account, so it's not strictly true to say that family members can't access the account once their relative has passed, merely that a different set of rules over who can and should have access to it comes into play. It's not the law/organisations being asses, there are some good reasons why things have to work the way they work when the person whos property you're talking about is no longer in a position to control said property.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Legal issues

          And the attorney and executor may have quite different responsibilities. For instance the attorney might be trying to keep creditors at bay while the executor's duty will include realising the maximum value of the estate to ensure creditors are paid.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Legal issues

          "family members can't access the account once their relative has passed"

          Passed what?

          1. Victor Ludorum

            Re: Legal issues

            Away.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Legal issues

              If they died, why not just say that?

              1. Peter Ford

                Re: Legal issues

                It seems to be a thing, especially among Americans, to avoid using words like 'died', like it's unlucky or something. See also 'toilet'...

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Legal issues

                  you mean the crapper? The John J?

                  1. MrReynolds2U

                    Re: Legal issues

                    That works, or dunny, lav or loo

                    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
                      Joke

                      Re: Legal issues

                      Reminds me of an exchange in the film "My favourite Year"

                      Stone: "Mr Swann, I'm going to be -unwell-"

                      Swann: "Ladies are unwell, Stone, gentlemen vomit."

                      (Peter O'Toole in one of his more exuberant roles.)

                      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                        Re: Legal issues

                        Along the lines of "horses sweat, gentlemen perspire, ladies glow" ?

              2. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: Legal issues

                Because this is English, which gives us lots of euphemisms for everything. As languages go, basically all of them do it, but English has the benefits of being spoken by people in many places who come up with increasingly strange phrases for common things. For death, we not only have ones for sounding more pleasant like "passing away", but we have the bonus ones for sounding less pleasant like "snuffing it". And I'm guessing you knew exactly what they meant, anyway.

              3. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch
                Pirate

                Re: Legal issues

                Once attended a monthly M&M (morbidity and mortality) meeting for an Oncology unit where, for obvious reasons, mortality was most of the subject of discussion.

                A nurse unit manager was a stickler for not using euphemisms for death. An unfortunate resident, whose job it was to describe, in detail, the mode of death of each cancer patient in turn, let "and Mr Kerfoops passed away on Thursday..." slip. He was duly called out on it.

                For the rest of the meeting, a series of cancer patients variously popped their clogs, cashed in their cheque, croaked, underwent celestial discharge, snuffed it, were transferred to ward 10 south (this was a 9-storey building), were discharged to pathology outpatients, but not one of them died.

                1. david 12 Silver badge

                  Re: Legal issues

                  As one of my Doctors explained, medicine has a technical word which unambiguously identifies the event.

                  Patients die.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Legal issues

                  "'E's passed on! [...] is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! "

              4. ChrisC Silver badge

                Re: Legal issues

                That is what I said. It's also what I expounded, explained, mentioned, indicated, noted... Whilst the rich and varied nature of English might make it a pain for people to learn, it's also part of what makes it such a nice language to use. Wouldn't life be dull if English was such a tightly controlled language that there was only ever one correct way to say something?

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: Legal issues

                  "Wouldn't life be dull if English was such a tightly controlled language that there was only ever one correct way to say something?"

                  We'd have to start borrowing phrases from French.

                  1. TRT Silver badge

                    Re: We'd have to start borrowing phrases from French.

                    Zut alors!

      3. Twanky Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Legal issues

        ...rights of the deceased...? I think these also cease at the time of death.

        I had Lasting Power of Attorney over my Mum's financial affairs in the final years of her life. I was also one of the Executors named in her Will. When she died I phoned her bank to 'freeze' her account and was told, not unreasonably, that they couldn't just take my word for it over the phone but that as I had stated she was dead my LPA was no longer valid - and that they had 'made a note' of the call. They asked me to either write to them or attend a branch in person.

        Next day I visited a branch of the bank with all the required details and personal ID. The duty 'manager' duly 'froze' the account. I commented that that had seemed very quick and easy and he told me he had used my LPA authority to do it (no, I had not given him any passwords). I pointed out that my LPA was no longer valid and that I'd already contacted their call centre so there was a 'note' on the system. He looked distinctly embarrassed as he hastily reversed the 'freeze' and then went though a much longer process to do it according to the bank's official procedures.

        It was a Friday and I think he had Beer O'clock in mind.

        I know death is not a subject people like to dwell on, but a not-too-hidden link to a guide on banks' web sites on what to do would be very useful.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Legal issues

          "was told, not unreasonably, that they couldn't just take my word for it over the phone"

          So far so good...

          "but that as I had stated she was dead my LPA was no longer valid"

          So they were taking your word for it.

          1. Twanky Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Legal issues

            Yes.

            That means you can't call up and freeze someone's bank account but you can call up and apparently disable their attorney's access.

            However, as was shown the LPA authority was still working - even if it was invalid.

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: Legal issues

              Well, until he turned up in person with proof that has was the appointed LPA holder, the bank were unable to officially action the fact that his LPA had ceased. And once he had proved has was the LPA, the bank could officially recognise his Mum was dead and officially refuse to take any notice of what he was saying as his LPA was not longer active, and so officially ignore the information that his Mum was dead.

              At some point the crowbar of common sense has to be wedged into the spirals of officialness.

              1. Twanky Silver badge

                Re: Legal issues

                Yes, I'd like to have inserted the crowbar of common sense ...somewhere.

                The bank already had seen my proof of LPA a few years previously - which was why they had allowed me to manage her accounts. What brought the spirals to a close was a copy of the death certificate, Mum's Will and my ID documents.

                What I wanted when I called was a pointer to my role in their procedures.

                What I thought was particularly crap was the bank 'managers' willingness to take a shortcut through their procedures - and potentially lay the blame on me..

        2. Potty Professor Bronze badge
          FAIL

          Re: Legal issues

          A relative of mine died some five years ago, their house was sold, and all of their accounts were cancelled. I recently accidentally forwarded an email to one of their old email addresses (they were still on the mailing list for an association we used to subscribe to), and duly received back a delivery acknowledgement. Out of curiosity, I logged into their account, I knew their password as I had set the account up for them, and they had never changed it. I was somewhat surprised to find that the account was still active, and contained 285 unread emails.

      4. Cav Bronze badge

        Re: Legal issues

        No one steals your photo album. The family just loses access to someone elses' server on which their dead relative was storing photos. If the only copy of said photos is on someone elses' server then that's the result of the foolishness of the deceased.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Write them down...

    Can't beat having them written down somewhere secure. I have had clients have strokes and loose memory, or die on operating tables. Writing things down in a clear way is vital for the elderly. (Or a good password manager)

    The funniest one was the 90 year old ex-military vet. He had a major heart issue that meant he lost a big chunk of memory. He did have a password book - but all carefully encrypted. The two of us would often sit there trying to crack his old codes.

    Or the less funny one. Lady preparing to die due to terminal cancer. Had prepared all the computer details. But checked out early on an operating table. This is when we found key passwords missing. Yeah, we had all her online accounts. Couldn't login to the Windows desktop. Or the Accounting package master password. The former is easy to crack, but the latter took a bit of sweet talking with the accounting software people.

    Always test that DRP.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Write them down...

      Always test that DRP.

      Death Response Plan?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Write them down...

        It's not going to be the Death Recovery Plan.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Write them down...

          MTTR: Mean Time To Resurrect?

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Write them down...

      loose memory. Is that like loose stools, but not a messy? :)

  8. H in The Hague Silver badge

    Talking of the DR plan in the safe ...

    Yesterday, as we were out cycling, a motorscooter got a bit too close for comfort. That reminded me of the bus factor and inspired me to mention to Mrs H that one of these days she should get my folder with passwords and computer-related notes out of the safe and try and access my system with them. I think I wrote everything down clearly - but did I? And can she remember in which safe place she put the key to the safe?

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Talking of the DR plan in the safe ...

      My small safe requires a key to open it and that key is in a keysafe elsewhere. That has a combination on it which both my brother and sister will know and only they will know. Location of these safes isn’t obvious as they’re hidden. As I explained to them the sealed copies of my will, contain the location of the safes.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Talking of the DR plan in the safe ...

        So long as the house isn’t sold in the meantime . . .

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Talking of the DR plan in the safe ...

        "and only they will know"

        Sitting around in an office in court one day, waiting to be called as a witness I noticed one of the police witnesses, equally bored, twiddle the combination lock to open the office key safe, just for something to do.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: Talking of the DR plan in the safe ...

          I did a presentation at a probation office once where they had a similar experience, except that the offender who had been waiting found a valid code to open the door, and when through into a 'controlled area'. Fortunately he was a non-violent offender, and when found did tell them the code he had used.

          Strangely the code the offender had found was not one issued or created by the office for their staff, and they found they could not cancel it from the admin console. Contacting the system supplier, it transpired it was a hard coded PIN to unlock the doors 'in case customers had accidentally locked themselves out'. It took quite some effort to remove the code from the system.

          So, everyone, do ask your friendly security system vendor, whether there are any similar 'features' allowing people access to your systems that you should know about.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Talking of the DR plan in the safe ...

            999... and... 9?

      3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Talking of the DR plan in the safe ...

        "My small safe requires a key to open it"

        Bet you a bottle of Talisker that it doesn't...

  9. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Joke

    "Bingo!" Mark told us,

    > "Bingo!" Mark told us,

    That's quite an obvious password, I'm surprised he didn't try it earlier.

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Having read this story

    and looked at our DR policies

    <twitch><twitch><twitch><twitch><twitch><twitch>......<twitch>......

    On a side note, what's Death's first name?

    1. Victor Ludorum

      Re: Having read this story

      I DON'T NEED A FIRST NAME.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Having read this story

        YOU MAY CALL ME 'BILL', MISS FLITWORTH.

    2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Having read this story

      No idea, but his horse is called 'Binky'.*

      *(Well, in the late Sir Terry Pratchett's 'Mort' he is.)

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Having read this story

        https://discworld.fandom.com/wiki/Binky

    3. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Having read this story

      You also need his Mother's maiden name, date of birth, and the name of his childhood pet!

  11. chivo243 Silver badge

    Recipient

    I was the recipient of the DR book when my boss retired, I also grabbed a copy of his home folder too! I sanitized it, removed anything remotely personal. It saved our collective bacon on many occasions. I've moved on, and also passed on the book. Some of the content need updating, and some needed to be removed as the services were no longer in place... Still very handy for some AD service account passwords!

  12. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Not theory, but practice

    "I was rewarded for that success a few months later by being informed that they no longer had any need of my services."

    New contact on the inside => new contact on the outside.

  13. Sp1z

    There's no such thing as too much planning

    This was a good move on the doctor's part.

    I'm responsible for quite a few customer's networks (which have documentation anyway) plus my own hosting platform which I run just on my own. Then there's all the gubbins on my home network and various accounts which would be useful for people to access in the event of my demise.

    Two close friends have a very heavily encrypted spreadsheet with all my passwords/mfa recovery tokens/network plan etc on it and contact details of the best people to help sort it all out. They don't have the password, and I send them a new copy every ~3 months or when a significant change has taken place. (They always get worried when it comes through and ask if I'm ok!)

    My sister and niece have the stupidly long password, and both sets of people have each others contact details and instructions on what to do if I kick the bucket.

    It may not be completely fool-proof, but it's as good as I could come up with and it should protect my customers if anything were to happen.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: There's no such thing as too much planning

      Hello:

      This was a good move on the doctor's part.

      Read again.

      No doctor involved.

      It was the receptionist's good move*.

      * which has got me seriously thinking about this today.

      O.

  14. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    Ouija Board

    I was half expecting the answer to have been discovered via a seance. I suppose that would have also been an opportunity to deliver the letter.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Ouija Board

      The ouija board only delivers one letter at a time.

      1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch

        Re: Ouija Board

        It also has to spell out E-X-C-L-A-M-A-T-I-O-N M-A-R-K.

        They haven't started shipping them with Shift yet.

      2. EVP

        Re: Ouija Board

        One needs an OUIJA 10646 compliant board these days.

  15. Richard Pennington 1
    Coat

    Ouija 10 is obsolete ...

    ... but most existing boards do not satisfy the hardware requirements for Ouija 11.

    Have you ever seen a Ouija board with an "Intel Inside" sticker attached?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Valid point

    The workaround here is not to encrypt data unless I have at least three (3) copies of the passphrase, in multiple secure locations.

    One of them is in a friend's safe, with the combination to the inner box known to a different unknown person.

    Also useful: backing the data up to an SMS based failsafe canary unit with a solar and betavoltaic power source, which if not reset once a month then texts the passphrase to three trusted individuals with verification: if not received within 12 hours it assumes the worst and sends a backup copy to one of the numbers in its database every 24 hours power permitting.

    It has just enough power to store up energy in this way, a month at 0.1mA is adequate.

  17. Conundrum1885

    Re. PWD file

    Interesting note: recovering B*T*O*K*R keys. Some early machines stored a backup copy in the BIOS, even if unbootable its possible to desolder the chip and read it back in the event of a cataclysmic system failure.

    The fix is to write just enough data so the system boots, then the drive picks up fine.

    Caveat: needs the *exact* *same* motherboard down to every component, ideally with the RAM and other parts transplanted to maintain the chain of trust.

  18. my farts clear the room

    Bitwarden can work here

    Bitwarden has a feature on the paid license that allows you to create recovery contacts that can request access to your password safe.

    In the event of an event your configured contact(s) can request access to your password safe. You get emailed a notification to accept or deny. If you don’t respond they get access after the expiry of the time you configured per recovery contact.

    I have 3 setup, the most trusted has the shortest timeout and the most capable has the next shortest. The third has 2 weeks.

    I have 700 unique complex passwords and lots of useful info, like car insurance and so on listed as secure notes.

    I’ve moved to Devon where people seem to come in droves to wait until they shuffle off this mortal coil and have been diligently explaining the hygiene benefit of a password manager along with the suggestion that people set up a recovery contact that could be their solicitor, friend or offspring. It’s a learning curve thing for everyone.

    There are cheap solutions out there, the problem is that the generation that needs them most are not aware of them.

  19. technos

    The day *after* the funeral

    .. a woman walked in, introduced herself as Joe's widow, and said someone at the funeral told her we were having trouble with his passwords.

    I made a call, and yeah, we were. Joe had the Supervisor PIN for some of the CNC machines, and no one else knew it.

    So I walked her down to the plant where the machines were. She looked at the keypad for a second and said "Try 9635. It's his bank account PIN." Nope. "Try 9354. That's the code to get into the garage."

    Success!

    As I was leading her back to the office she off the cuff said "If you need into his computer, it's either Friday96 or Becca98. Those are our cats." Before reimaging Joe's machine for reuse, I checked. His password was indeed Friday96.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A friend gave ma a sealed envelope that has half of the password for his personal accounts. Another local friend has an envelope with the other half of the password.

  21. EricB123 Bronze badge

    Same old story really

    Once again, no good deed ever goes unpunished! Save the company, get fired.

    And then companies complain about lack of employee loyalty.

    Haizzzzzz...

  22. Bisho

    Posthumous messaging service

    The posthumous messaging service, afterwords.life, is another way to handle this situation - store details in a digital vault and have them released to a friend/family member after death.

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