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Creating private computer files

But not TOO private!

I've written a separate page about choosing passwords, and methods for remembering them. The page you are reading at the moment goes into uses of passwords, once they have been chosen.

We sometimes have information that we want... for the moment... to keep private, but which we want the right people, at the right time, to be able to access.

Most wordprocessing programs, including Open Office's "ooWriter", allow you to save a document with password protection. Anyone subsequently wishing to load that document must supply a password before the document will open.

Most people reading this will have an email account. Does someone besides you know the password for your account? Did you know that many of the big email providers will not grant access to a deceased person's account, even to the executor of that person's estate? And what if you are suddenly incapacitated. Will someone be able to access your email, and field enquiries coming in from people you know online, but not "face to face"? Perhaps important business enquiries, if you are self employed? Hopefully you will recover. And when you do, you will still need those customers. Not to mention the distress decent arrangements can spare distant friends. (See also my page about "ICE" provisions I think we should all make, in this fragile world. ("ICE": In Case of Emergency... notifications.))

Do you have a blog you've worked hard on, and want to persist? Suppose you are hit by a bus, literally or figuratively. Any one of us, at any time, can be suddenly incapacitated. Have you taken steps to mitigate the problems which will arise? Who has the password to access that blog?

We probably should all have compiled lists of where our bank accounts are, the account numbers, etc.

But! I hear you cry.... any one of those documents could cause enormous problems if they fell into the wrong hands.

True! Which is where passwords come in. When you save the document, save it with a password. But be clever. Make it a long password, and give half of it to each of two trusted friends, in sealed envelopes. Be sure to tell them who has the first half of the whole password, who has the second half.

Problem solved!

Caveats

Be careful about the computer on which you created the document. If you saved some first drafts without doing so with a password, they may still be available on the computer's hard drive to anyone with not very fancy tools. Probably best to put copies of the password protected document on thumb-drives, and give the thumb-drives to you trusted friends along with the password halves.

I like Open Office in general. And for this job, I like it in particular. There are so many sensitive Microsoft Office documents scattered across the planet with password protection that many hundreds of hours have been spent on developing tools to get past the password protection on a Microsoft Office document. It isn't easy, but sometimes it can be done. I would be inclined to think that a password protected Open Office document would be harder to crack.

Vaporware

I have done the planning for a new computer program that might interest you. I have headed this section "vaporware" because the program does not yet exist.... but if you write and tell me you are interested, I might Get My Act Together!

The program is for situations like the ones outlined above, but it introduces something extra. You would create your document however you wished to do so. Any computer file could be password protected by my program, in fact

You would then generate a long password which would be split into three parts. You would give one part to each of three trusted friends.

When it came time to open the document, it would be sufficient to supply any two of the passwords.

My program protects you against the very real possibility that one of your friends might be unavailable, or might have lost their third of the password.


Forgive the abrupt end to this page?




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