A Personal Story: How a Small Mistake Nearly Had Catastrophic Consequences

« The Young Whippersnappers Aren't As Smart As They Think | Main | A Preview of What's Next »


A Personal Story: How a Small Mistake Nearly Had Catastrophic Consequences

Kevin R. Smith


Mike was an extraordinarily talented programmer--we're talking a top 1/10 of 1% kind of a guy.

He'd had been sick for some time, but his passing was a shock to us all. After he died, his business partner contacted me. "Kevin," she began, "You were the only one Mike trusted with his programs."

Understanding what someone has done with their digital life is no small task--doubly so when they're a programmer--trebly so when they're a business owner.

So, the first thing we did was look for his passwords so we could get access to their systems.

Perhaps the worst thing we uncovered?

His passwords were all over the place. Some were at home. Some were on his laptop. Some were on his office computer.

What. The. ____.

With tremendous help from another highly trusted programmer I knew, the three of us began to cull each of his computers for important data, passwords, and the keys to understanding how to resuscitate their business.

To be honest, were it not for the skill of the highly trusted programmer I brought in to help, it would have been over. Why?

His two most important passwords have no web-based password recovery and no practical way to reset them.

So, now what?

Over the next several days, little by little, we got things together and the business was on its feet again.

Let me tell you, going through something like this gets you thinking and helps you prioritize in a hurry.

Now that the dust has settled, fellow editor, Josh Christofferson, and I have begun working on something to help solve the computer organization and security issues we all deal with—and seldom realize how devastating they can be.

Stay tuned. More to come in 72 hours or less.


You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I have my passwords listed on 1 sheet of paper. I only have 2 or 3 different one0s but then my material is not worth much. I thought I was the only one with this problem.

Hey Ed,

Thanks for your comment.

You'd be surprised at the value even of a valid email account to a cyber criminal.

If you use that email account for things like accessing your bank account, credit cards and the like, it can mean real trouble if the bad guys get access to that account.

With control of your email account, a cyber-thief can reset passwords to your bank accounts or even utilities like gas and electric and take control of them.

The comments to this entry are closed.