Thursday, April 17, 2014

Using Login Info Spreadsheets to Keep Track of Login Info

Disclaimer/Warning: Never keep your passwords in a text file on your computer, in your email, on a website, or anywhere on a computer or online.  That's not what this article is about.  In fact, the most secure thing to do is to not keep any of this stuff on your computer.  More on this later...

What we are going to talk about is how to create our own set of documents that will remind us of what our Login Credentials (password, email, etc.) are without going through the password reset process.

Disclaimer/Warning: Make sure these sheets don't fall into the wrong hands - they might not allow people access to your accounts in and of themselves, but it would be a useful cross-referencing tool to determine what accounts you're in control of...

But... why would I need to keep track of my personal login information?

If you already know why, you can skip to the next section.  If you don't, read my New Reasons to Keep Track of Login Info blog post.

The main message here is don't lose your login info.  It's up to you to keep track of it, and this is a relatively secure and simple method I use to do just that...

0. Getting Started

Start by creating a really good, long password. If you're not sure how to do that, read my Creating a secure password you can remember post. It will show you how to create several great passwords from one memorable sentence.  We'll assume you read that already.  You can still use your old password if it is secure enough and hasn't been compromised...

Note: You can use any program you're comfortable with to make these sheets - as an example I'm using Google Spreadsheets because it's free, online, and accessible on all my devices (phone, computers, tablets, etc).  You'll want to fill out both these sheets at the same time, and when you open the examples and compare them to one another, you'll see why...

1. Create a Login Info Helper spreadsheet

This sheet serves to remind you of your logins, associated emails, etc. and how you code your passwords.  Since it contains personal information (email addresses, usernames, etc.) it should be kept secure, and shouldn't really be digital at all.

Login Info Helper

2. Create a Login Info spreadsheet

This sheet is a coded reference sheet that serves to remind you of your Login Credentials.  Since it's coded it doesn't need to be as secure as the Login Info Helper, and if it is in your cloud it can be used to quickly jog your memory or at least give you a starting point when guessing what your password might be.  The safest thing to do is to keep it hidden and secure in a place that's separate from the other document(s).

At the bottom of the example below you'll see tabs called "Coded" and "Decoded Using Login Info Helper Spreadsheet".  Click between the tabs to see what happens when you take the Coded tab and Decode it using the Login Info Helper spreadsheet

Login Info

The Decoded page is a page representing what goes on when you compare the two sheets together.

That's it!  With these two spreadsheets available to you you're not likely to forget your Login Credentials - except maybe your password.  As long as you have a strategy for coming up with memorable passwords and/or remembering passwords you're in good shape.

To get started, copy the content of the spreadsheets below into your own documents, print (recommended) and fill in the information (not your passwords, of course)!

Login Info Helper Spreadsheet - Generic
Login Info Spreadsheet - Generic


You may want to keep a written record of what your passwords are, but I can't recommend it.  If you decide to do this, however, you should do it in the real world on a well hidden sheet of paper.  I'll probably write a future post with suggestions on how this could be done, but for now I'll just say "I can't recommend it".

What you should not do is keep your raw passwords on your computer.  If malware got on your computer then a hacker or bot could steal your list of logins and passwords.  It is much more difficult to search a library, house, or closet for a document containing passwords than it is a computer.  If one of your accounts or computers is compromised it's natural to assume they have your passwords already, but they probably don't have more than one (if that).  If they are in a text file on your computer, though, it won't be long before they find them, upload them to a server, and sell the data to companies that pay poor people $1 a day to ruin your life.  I'm not kidding :-/

If any of your passwords have ever been on a computer or common knowledge, it's time to make new passwords.  Start by reading my Creating a secure password you can remember post, and use the method above to keep track of things!

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