Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Passwords

An interesting problem that never occurred to me before:
Some secrets shouldn't be taken to the grave, such as computer passwords needed to access bank accounts, e-mail, or hard drives. Families and employers often have to scramble to find personal and professional passwords after a death. If passwords for critical computer files or financial records are lost, the execution of wills and final requests can sometimes be delayed.

"It's becoming a very common occurrence," John E. Kuslich, a professional password cracker, told the Dallas Morning News. "I've had families of people who have committed suicide, for example, and they'll call me and say all these files are encrypted and they want to get into them. In those cases, especially, people call back and are so thankful for what they were able to read. It's really something else."
So how does one keep a secret while alive but ensure the secret passes on to others after death? This is trickier than just delaying the publishing of a secret for a fixed time period, for only God knows the number of our days. I can't think of any way to do it without a trusted third party. A poor-man's solution would be a password list in a safe deposit box.

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