Keeping those details up to date

Almost every online service has a way to recover lost passwords or provide access to accounts that have somehow become inaccessible to their rightful owners. Those account recovery processes usually involve sending an email to an email address or a text message to a phone. These are reliable ways in which you prove you are the rightful owner of the account and should be allowed back in.

However, many people don’t set up this recovery information, and those that do often forget to update it when their email address or mobile phone number changes. I cannot stress enough how critical it is that you keep your security information up-to-date as in not doing so is perhaps the fastest way to lose your account forever.

These days, you need at least 2 email addresses: one which is your real or primary address and a second one which can be configured as your “alternate” email address for that primary account. It is used should you ever need to prove that you are you since the account recovery process frequently involves sending a password-reset link, a code, or some other kind of information to that other email address.

Many services also allow you to associate a phone number with your account in order to prove you are who you are. Rather than sending you an email, these services can opt instead to send you a text message with a recovery code. Being able to receive a code via the phone number you provided is an alternative way for you to verify that you own an account, and thus be given access to it. In addition, it makes your account more secure as many online services can use it to challenge people if they try to get into your account without your permission and alert you to possible threats to your account’s security, for example, when your password is changed.

To avoid losing access to important accounts, we strongly recommend that you:

  • Set up an alternate authentication mechanism on your important accounts.
  • If you already have, check they are all still valid.

And above all, any time any of the above changes, make sure to update the information in your accounts. Alternate email addresses or phone numbers are of no use if you no longer have access to them.

Philip Brooks