back to article One in 10 Brits leaves web passwords in their will

Your gran could pass on her iTunes password along with the family silver as a survey suggests that 11 per cent of Brits have either put internet passwords into their wills or plan to do so. The main reason for passing on the keys to internet accounts was the valuable content amassed in the cloud – with 25 per cent of the 2,000 …


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  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    And we're told to not write down our passwords ???

    Surely a far more practical solution (rather than going through the rigmarole of updating legal documents) is to simply have a postit stuck to the side of your screen with your passwords on it. Or for the ultra-security paranoid: stuck on its back!

    The question then becomes, who is responsible for keeping up the subscriptions on all these wonderful, valuable e-assets? The ones who's hosting company's Ts & Cs you'd be breaking by either: giving your account details to someone else, or: accessing someone else's account.

    That's even if you share the same musical/film tastes as your dear-departed. Or if all the stuff in their accounts would end up in the equivalent of a house-clearer's skip. Though would you really want to stumble across your grandparents' pr0n collection?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, we aren't told not to write down our passwords.

      We are, however, told not to stick them to our monitors on post-its where they are in plain sight to every passer by(*). To quote Bruce Schneier:

      >"We're all good at securing small pieces of paper. I recommend that people write their passwords down on a small piece of paper, and keep it with their other valuable small pieces of paper: in their wallet."

      (*) - Even at home. If you ever get burgled, that's bad enough already; would you really want the burglars to *also* have your online-banking login details?

      1. C Yates

        Normal for Norfolk :)

        This kinda reminds me of the Norfolk woman who had "Do not resucsitate" tattooed to her chest and "PTO" on her back :)


        Password tattoos anyone? :D

  2. Tim Walker

    Food for thought

    Many of us go through life, simply assuming that we'll make it to old age - not to get morbid or anything, but all it takes is "mind that bus, what bus, splat" ((c) "Red Dwarf"), and we're outta here.

    It strikes me that I have so many passwords in my online life, and if I were to die tomorrow, my family would be pretty stuck (especially with our financial info, etc. that I keep encrypted). I use KeePassX to store all my login details, so I imagine I could leave a "howto" document with a solicitor (perhaps as an annex to our will?), in which I disclose the master password and tell the reader how to use it. (Presumably, I would need to update the document every now and then, if I change the master password, the app(s) I use for storing the logins, etc.)

    Of course, all this assumes that "the cloud" will outlive us...

  3. GrumpyJoe

    Built my own cloud

    using a 2Tb NAS - not shown wifey how to manage it yet (she's not really interested) - but it means that the family photos etc. are stored in a place we can both get them (and the kids when they are old enough). No need for external passwords.

    Yes, I know it's not a 'cloud' per se - but it's mine, it large (expandable) and I can get at it from anywhere - it's good enough for me.

    (Synology DS211 if you are interested)

    1. Tim Walker

      At least you bought a 2-bay Synology :-)

      I went for a 1-bay - yes, the DS110j is a great little box, though I have to make sure that anything I'd be gutted to lose is replicated on at least one other machine (and preferably offsite at that).

      Perhaps there's mileage in various households in the same family buying Syno boxes, and setting them all up to replicate content to each other for "redundancy"... ow, that vein in my head is really hurting now...

      1. JaimieV

        It's a good plan, apart from the vendor lockin

        More generically, gives away software that'll automatically backup to friends and family for free.

        In terms of home NAS, for the more techie-DIY inclined: HP Microserver N36L's are dirt cheap (£100 rebate means ~£130) right now, and by far the cheapest way to build a NAS of more than two disks if you want to go that route.

    2. frank ly Silver badge

      I hope it's RAID-1

      ... or even that you have a backup copy in a geographically remote location.

  4. Ian 35

    I can't believe this is true

    Only about thirty percent of people have wills, and they are disproportionately older. The idea that a third of those people have passwords in them, especially given wills tend to be revised only on the birth of children or the death of spouses, is fanciful.

    1. Annihilator


      You missed the key phrase "or plan to". I don't imagine the surveyed a broad enough range of the population either, so probably asked 20-40 year olds. Even worse, it seems unlikely to be able to get that stat without explicitly asking "would or have you put your web passwords in a will?" which would prompt people it was a good idea and to say yes.

      Yet another bit of "scientific research" kindly paid for by... oh wait.. Rackspace. It's almost as if the cost they paid for the research is outweighed by the free advertising they get through all the "news" stories that pick it up.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a little paper pocket book, stashed away where only my wife and I know where it is. It has all my really important logins and passwords in it. I don't keep passwords in any software when possible, memorise the important ones and only lookup the obscure ones. I learned the basics of the Loci memory method, it beats writing things down and it's great way to exercise your imagination!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Your wife has access to all your passwords?

      Don't know if brave, or stupid...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Does she know...

        ... Your credit card PIN too?

        I can see it now,

        Account Total

        - shoes

        - handbag

        - hair salon appointment

        - several dresses

        - several bottles of plonk with her mates down the wine bar

        - new kitchen (happenned to me)

        = Time to get a loan!

        1. Onid

          all in the same day???

          that's why I use tripwire for bank account software!!...

          seriously though - impulse purchased a new kitchen??? just walking by B&Q or somethin?

  6. The BigYin

    Two things

    1) My passwords are all in an encrypted file and I have oft wondered about how to do the release of the key upon my demise

    2) If it is on someone else's box, it's no longer yours. By all mean use Flickr etc to publicise, but keep the masters at home.

    3) Do not rely on crap like iTunes, Kindle etc. Buy the media (or get a DRM free version). It never occurred to me that these on-line services had yet another angle by which they can screw you over.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two things

      I use KeePass for my financial accounts, my wife has the password and my children the keyfile.

      Hopefully my family will be able to get the funds without any hassle. Also, this way I can keep my escape(*) fund hidden but it's there as a pleasant surprise after I've gone.

      * Everybody should have an escape fund, it would have saved McCartney and Cleese a fortune. It doesn't mean you don't have faith in your partner, it's just a practicality.

  7. Anonymous Coward 15

    Not just website passwords.

    Don't forget the password to the emergency DBAN option to delete all the porn.

  8. Chuunen Baka

    I have an arcane security scheme for my online life and I doubt if any of my grieving rellies would be able to understand it. Maybe there's a future job market for cyber-executors.

  9. Bassey


    I don't use iTunes. I've installed it twice and hated it so removed it soon after both times. However, my recollection is that anything you "buy" from iTunes (films, music, apps, games) is for YOUR use only. So you can't legally leave it to someone. Fair enough, you're also giving them access to photos you have stored in there but, upon your demise, the license for all that stuff you bought expires with you.

    Just one of the joys of the Jobsian model of content rental.

  10. Melanie Winiger
    Thumb Up

    Special photos? Ahem!

    "A quarter said they had "special photos" stored online"

    Special hey?

    Anyone who has been married for more than 10 years will surely have some photos of "coupling action" or at very least some incriminating toys whether in-use or not.

    Or are we the only ones who do that?

    The thing is - do we let the kids know about all that when we go 6 feet under?

    Answer: they probably do already...

    1. Annihilator

      "porn buddy"

      A phrase I first heard on a TV sitcom in the 90's (Coupling I think?) where two guys became porn buddies and exchanged house keys. The long and short was that if either of them were to die, the other would go into their house before their loved ones had a chance and remove the deceased's porn. Not destroy mind you, just remove.

  11. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    As with the other "keys" to my life (bank account details, secure box number, etc.) they are store with my will.

  12. Dances With Sheep
    Paris Hilton

    Porn friend ?

    If leaving your inter-web passwords in your will, you might want your porn friend to access the account(s) first and delete your stash.

    Paris, just because.

  13. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Damned if you do, buggered if you don't

    You either write passwords for data down or risk family not knowing about it or not being able to access it. Or, more simply, don't keep data where a password is needed. It's no-win really.

    There is that notional difficulty in breaching contracts and 'unauthorised access' but the bigger risk is that accounts expire before anyone can get to them or the internet connection, web sites and accounts in the deceased names disappear as soon as your ISP knows you've shuffled off the mortal coil.

    As for people who hold 'treasured memories' in the cloud with no local backup then I guess the loss of the cloud's data is what's going to put them in a tearful and early grave. If it's that treasured I really don't understand why they won't spunk a few quid on a USB hard disk. Unless they've got SLAs they may as well hide it in under a local park bench - what could possibly go wrong ?

    Of course, we all expect the bereaved to be even remotely interested in what we consider important. I suppose it's a good job we won't be around to discover the reality of our delusions. Nor to hear what we're called if treasured data is lost with us through not properly preserving that safely.

    Ah, souls; doncha just love 'em.

  14. Graham Marsden

    What's the betting...

    ... that certain Providers will add (if they don't have already) a clause in their T&Cs which states that only *YOU* have the right to listen to the music or read the books etc you've downloaded and that, on death, the ownership rights revert to the Provider, so passing on your password to your wife or children is breaking the law (or will be when they've finished lobbying for it!)

  15. Tim Walker


    I can't believe I'm about to relay a link from Gizmodo, but I suppose even they have to produce a great article once...

    Moving and thought-provoking.

  16. Tom 13

    No need to update the will.

    The will specifies an addendum which you can update as necessary without all the costs of updating the will.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's being discussed here is why I shit bricks at the death of hard copy.

    1. JaimieV

      What death?

      Printers still appear to exist, as does paper. If you don't want to handle it yourself, outsource: Many photo apps have builtin links to assemble and print hardcopy albums of your chosen pics, for example, let alone text binding services at your nearest copy shop. Not using the facilities available doesn't mean they're not there.

  18. My Opinion

    You do the maths

    "One in 10 Brits leaves web passwords in their will"

    " a survey suggests that 11 per cent of Brits have..."

    So that'll be 1 in 9 then!

  19. Herbert Fruchtl

    Verified by Visa

    Slightly off-topic, but one of my pet hates: How do you encourage people to write down their passwords and carry them around or store them in multiple places?

    - Demand inanely long/complicated passwords that no-one will remember. Unless it's one permanent one that you could learn by heart.

    - Force the user to change it after a small number of unsuccessful attempts, even if at different times. ("Twice wrong already. I'll better try the third time from home, after looking up that piece of paper.")

    - Disallow resetting it to a previously used one. ("OK, I jumped through the hoops with birthdate etc. once, but now I do remember." Nice try. So much about learning by heart.)

    - Give the impression that stealing minutes and hours from a user's life gives some kind of unbreakable security, when all a crim would actually need is the credit card (easily stolen) and the birthdate (was there a driving licence in that wallet too?).

    Back to on-topic: I cam assure you that the biweekly change of password won't make it into my will. It doesn't always make it onto the piece of paper at home.

  20. Craig 28

    Alternative solution

    Put the passwords on a piece of paper in a safe, leave instructions for the safe in your will. You can then change it at your leisure, plus you have a small safe to store other valuables in.


    Scary as those thoughts are there is also the reality of loved ones finding collections of kinky underwear or the actual toys themselves, irrespective of whether they were ever used or bought as a gag gift. I will confess to having a number of items I'd never, ever want family members to know about. Unfortunately the only way I could be sure of them not finding them after my death would be not to have them in life and that just isn't something I'm willing to give up.

    That's not including the old fashioned home video sex tape of course, I'm sure that's traumatised more than a few people when clearing out their parents' stuff. Especially if they lost both parents at the same time.

  21. anthonyp

    Not a good idea!

    Wills are put into the public domain after probate. Not the best idea to put information such as log-in details where anyone can see it, is it? A better solution is to put the details in a sealed envelope and keep it with the will.

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