Planning Steps To Protect Your Digital Assets

Planning Steps To Protect Your Digital Assets

In my previous column, I described the safety challenges enterprise homeowners have with their digital property. Unfortunately, the problems are extra encompassing thanjust the chance of stolen buyer bank card knowledge.

To get a deal with on these threats to their enterprise, homeowners should perceive the breadth of firm data that’s digital: banking data, paperwork, spreadsheets, personnel data, domains. Further, the proprietor should acknowledge the chance will not be restricted to the difficulty of theft of digital data. There can be the problem of figuring out the place this data is positioned and whether or not the placement is safe. Does digital information resideon firm servers, in an worker’s good telephone or is it floating round someplace within the cloud? Added to this,is the issue of accessing this digital data. The data could exist, however it might grow to be inconceivable to entry, both due to hardware failure, misplaced usernames and passwordsor failure of the corporate sustaining the knowledge. What steps can a enterprise proprietor take to minimize the chance, mitigate the losses and in any other case provide a point of peace of thoughts?

Get Help:  When I purchased my Apple II within the late Nineteen Seventies, the customer wasessentially anticipated to function installer, customer support rep and repairman. There had been no shops, web sites or geek squads obtainable to deal with issues. This is not the case. Thetechnical infrastructure supporting digital info is nicely-developed. There are wonderful sources, each human and digital, for designing a digital asset safety plan. Just as a enterprise makes use of specialists to assist design a catastrophe restoration plan for its bodily plant, so too ought to a enterprise think about using outdoors experience to create a digital asset safety plan.

Make an Inventory:Can you determine all the data you may have that’s digital, each enterprise and private? And have you learnt the place it’s saved? Is the knowledge on the premises, within the cloud, on worker’s private digital devise?It is so commonplace to have staff personal their very own digital devises that, moderately than preventing the pattern, companies are designing asset safety plans round BYOD (deliver your personal gadget).  It is essential to know what gadgets staff use and what data will be saved in these devises. An stock should additionally embrace the place and the way this info is backed up. And, most significantly, that you must understand how this info could be accessed.Are consumer names and passwords recorded someplace that’s each protected and accessible?

Clean it Up:  The stock is prone to expose weaknesses in your digital asset safety plans. For instance, you could discover that key knowledge isn’t being backed up on a constant foundation. This affords a possibility to retailer information each on safe tangible media and offsite within the cloud. In different circumstances, chances are you’ll discover that your organization’s info is copied and backed-up in a number of and unregulated media, unnecessarily exposing that data to theft or misuse. This is your probability to reign within the knowledge.

Give and Get Permission:  My earlier column identified that federal legislation could make individuals unwitting felons once they use another person’s consumer identify and password. While it stays troublesome to ameliorate this authorized purgatory, some type of written permission is healthier than no documentation in any respect.  Further, in some circumstances, there is a chance to specify disposition of a digital account in line with the supplier’s directions. Google, for instance, lately created the Inactive Account Manager which permits customers to manage what occurs to emails, pictures and different paperwork saved on sure Google websites.  Law Professor Gerry Beyer of Texas Tech University affords various authorized steps which will assist shield digital property, notably in an property planning context. It could also be attainable to authorize an agent to entry digital property, or the property will be positioned in a belief. If the digital belongings are of a private nature, it could even be acceptable to incorporate particular directions in a will.

Use Online Protection Services:Why not use software program to guard what your software program generates?  There is an energetic trade of on-line instruments designed to guard and deal with digital property. Some are on-line password managers reminiscent ofLastPass and PasswordBox.  Others, corresponding to Estate++ and If I Die, search to retailer details about digital belongings and even ship emails about these property ought to the proprietor die.  They can function a digital security deposit field and ship out notes to pre-designated recipients at dying.

Digital asset safety is a course of that lags behind know-how each when it comes to regulation and trade requirements. While IT gurus can cook dinner up artistic methods to retailer and defend digital info, it’s painfully apparent that they’re typically designing techniques and requirements on the fly. This makes it all of the extra vital to supervise the creation of a digital asset plan for each your enterprise and household, evaluate it steadily, and modify it as time and know-how strikes on.  

Rest in Peace: Planning for Your Demise, Digitally

Rest in Peace: Planning for Your Demise, Digitally

Wharton emeritus finance professor Jack Guttentag is not a particularly morbid person, but he has given considerable thought to what he wants to happen to his personal and professional digital effects after his demise. Guttentag, 90, runs The Mortgage Professor, an online business that provides advice on home loan-related issues.

“I don’t have any intention of dying soon — I have a five-year business plan — but I need to approach this chore as if I have very little time left,” he says. “It isn’t easy.”

Upon his death, Guttentag has written instructions to his wife to put his website up for sale in consultation with his two partners and attorney. Over the years, he has had offers for it, but Guttentag says he never had the inclination to give it up or work for someone else. (He expects the value, which includes several trademarks and URLs connected to the business, to grow over time.)

On his desk, Guttentag has a manila folder containing a sheaf of papers that list user IDs, PIN numbers and passwords for various online services. He has also digitized almost all the photos he has taken over the years; they are in a file on his computer and also on Dropbox, the cloud storage provider. He has not, however, digitized family pictures inherited from other family members. “My son did some of them in developing a slideshow for my 90th birthday party, but most of them are still in boxes in my office, stoking my guilt,” Guttentag notes.

At a time when most people are spending more and more hours online – and, in the process, creating a legacy of data that will outlive them — the inevitability of death poses new challenges. Not only are there consumers who, like Guttentag, wish to tidy up their virtual effects before they die; there are also estate lawyers in the early process of establishing what constitutes digital ownership, technology firms clamoring to offer new services that deal with the remnants of digital life, and social media companies coming up with platforms that memorialize the dead.

“The norms are evolving,” says Andrea Matwyshyn, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton. “There will be a feedback loop over the next few years: Customer savvy and sophistication will increase, companies will begin to streamline their approaches and the legal industry will formalize estate planning.”

Death in the Digital Age

According to a report from digital research firm eMarketer, American adults spent more than five hours each day on the Internet last year, up from four hours and 31 minutes in 2012, and three hours and 50 minutes in 2011. Social media sites occupy a large portion of that online time: Data from research firm Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange shows that Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 who use social networks say they spend an average of 3.2 hours per day doing so. Nearly three-quarters of online American adults use social networking sites, and some 42% of online adults now use multiple social networking sites, says Pew Research Center.

“Customer savvy and sophistication will increase, companies will begin to streamline their approaches and the legal industry will formalize estate planning.”

“We have become progressively more reliant on digital communication and social media,” notes Matwyshyn. “To many people, their digital persona is equally — and in some cases, more — important [than their physical] identity.”

And yet very few people have made arrangements for what will happen to their digital persona and online possessions when they die. In 2012, the federal government added a “social media will” to its list of personal finance recommendations. The government suggests appointing an online executor to be responsible for the closure of email addresses, blogs and other online accounts. This person would also carry out the deceased’s wishes with regard to social media profiles, whether his or her desire is to completely cancel all profiles or keep them up as a memorial for friends and family to visit.

Most technology and social media companies have policies around what happens to users’ online content when they die. After all, our digital effects — the pictures we post, the emails we draft and the status updates we send — don’t solely belong to us in the first place. They belong, at least in part, to companies like Twitter and Yahoo that store the information on their servers.

“Companies are in a delicate position,” says Matwyshyn. “On one hand, there are resource constraints because they are dealing with a large number of unique requests, which is expensive and time-consuming. On the other hand, treating families of a deceased user with the sensitivity that the loss of a loved one requires is the ethical and correct thing to do. There is also a business opportunity here to build goodwill with the community of the deceased.”

Last year, for instance, Google launched an inactive account manager feature that lets users decide the fate of their accounts when they die. Twitter, meanwhile, will deactivate an account upon the request of an estate executor or an immediate family member once a copy of a death certificate is provided. Facebook either removes the account upon request by an executor or allows profiles to be turned into memorials so that friends may still post comments, photos and links to the deceased’s profile.

Flickr, which is owned by Yahoo, operates under its parent company’s terms of service agreement, which stipulates that the user ID and contents within an account terminate upon a person’s death. YouTube, which is owned by Google, operates under Google’s policy. Instagram, meanwhile, says on its site: “In the event of death of an Instagram User, please contact us.”

Users might, for example, post a remembrance on their deceased uncle’s page on his birthday. Or “visit” a friend on the anniversary of his or her death. “In the past, we gathered around the gravesite, but today we have new ways to communicate on social media,” says David Bell, professor of marketing at Wharton.

“[Mourning practices] vary person to person and culture to culture,” Bell notes. “But we will see new customs develop in terms of decorum and decency as well as an emergence of different platforms and tools for people to pay their respects. Families will be able to keep these things going in perpetuity.”

But online memorials are delicate entities. Who has custody of the profile? Who gets access? Who has the right to decide what’s appropriate to include, and what is involved in those decisions? Jed Brubaker, a PhD candidate in informatics at the University of California, Irvine who studies digital identity, social media and human centered computing, is immersed in questions of digital heirlooms. “In talking about things like Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other quasi-public social media that are accessible to lots of people, there’s an unresolved question of ownership,” he notes. “Is our virtual ‘stuff’ always [considered] ‘property’?”

“Communication that historically has been ephemeral is now persistent. It sticks around — there’s a record, a data trail.”

If it’s not property, though, then what exactly is it? “It’s communication,” he says. “We’re talking about content on a Facebook wall or a Twitter feed. Communication that historically has been ephemeral is now persistent. It sticks around — there’s a record, a data trail.”

Monetizing Digital Heirlooms

The vast majority of our digital assets — such as digital photos or Facebook timelines — have little value beyond the sentimental. But even these require careful estate planning, according to Gerry W. Beyer, a professor at Texas Tech University School of Law. In the old days, he says, people passed down scrapbooks, memoirs, picture albums and musty files of old newspaper clippings. “But now, many of us don’t have physical property like that to transfer. So all that stuff will disappear.”

Of course, there are lots of ways to transform those digital assets into physical objects. You could download your e-mail messages and back up your computer files on a disk, for instance, or you could put them on a CD or flash drive. You could even print them to remove them from the digital realm. But how many people actually do this? Case in point: Whenever Beyer presents at a conference, he asks the audience: “How many of you have photographs that are valuable to you that you haven’t printed?” Nearly everyone in the room raises his or her hand, he says. “If you don’t plan for these, your loved ones may lose access…. If you care what happens to your digital belongings after you die — your photographs, your home movies, your e-mails — you have to plan.”

And certain digital assets have monetary value both today and in the future, such as domain names or a blog that generates income. Avatars or virtual property in online games such as World of Warcraft or Second Life also have quantifiable value, Beyer notes.

Digital assets — personal iTunes music libraries and Kindle books, for example — are in a different class, however. If you have, say, a large digital book collection, the transfer of usage rights is limited and closely monitored. “You don’t technically own those,” says Beyer. “You have a license to use them. That license dies with you. But if those are owned in a trust, your beneficiaries may be able to continue to use them.”

Frequent flyer miles or hotel points, while also part of your digital profile, present some tricky questions, too. These assets are governed by a contract with the company, according to Wharton’s Matwyshyn. Most contracts specify that the miles and points are personal and cannot be shared unless given explicit permission from the company. “It is possible that airlines and hotels would be willing to entertain a request to transfer, but they have a unilateral right to say: ‘I’m sorry for your loss but these points are no longer valid,’” she notes.

“If you care what happens to your digital belongings after you die — your photographs, your home movies, your e-mails — you have to plan.”

A growing number of companies are finding ways to monetize post-mortem digital effects. After all, just because most of our digital content is sentimental, it does not mean it is of no economic value. “Quite the opposite, actually,” says Pinar Yildirim, a professor of marketing at Wharton. “Say you upload photos today, and 100 years later, long after you are gone, your great-great grandson wants to have them. It represents an opportunity for any company that may want to justify its investment in storing that digital content.”

Some companies, including E-Z Safe, Estate++ and SecureSafe, act as repositories for your digital accounts. They serve as virtual safe deposit boxes, holding onto your usernames and passwords. When you die, that information gets forwarded to the person or people you specify.

“After a loved one dies, oftentimes a family member or friend needs to get access to their digital material — their social media, their e-mails or they just want to pay some bills from an online account,” says Texas Tech’s Beyer, who is a national expert in estate and trust issues. “But without planning, companies may take weeks, months or even years before they grant access.”

Other companies assist in efforts to locate digital assets of the deceased. Webcease, for instance, helps people find keepsake photographs on sites like Snapfish or Shutterfly; accumulated earned miles or points on travel, hotel or airline loyalty programs; personal interactions on social and professional sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, and personal accounts on sites like Amazon, PayPal, Netflix or eBay. “They are essentially search firms that will search all over the Internet to find what’s out there,” Beyer notes.

Other businesses in this market specialize in helping family members gain access to the computers and accounts of people who have died, according to John Sileo, a Denver-based expert on identity theft and privacy. “Say your spouse or parent passed away and you need to get into his or her account, but the company won’t let you because you weren’t listed on the account, or you didn’t have power of attorney. One of your options is to enlist the help of a so-called ’ethical hacker,’” who could infiltrate accounts you have a legitimate right to, says Sileo. “There are people who are making a lot of money doing this behind the scenes.”

But these are precisely the scenarios that Guttentag, the nonagenarian Mortgage Professor, hopes to avoid. This is why he is doing his best to organize his digital effects now. “I don’t want to leave a mess for my wife and children to clean up when I die,” he says. “If that were to happen tomorrow, that pledge would not be fully realized because of the still unfinished business I haven’t yet gotten around to. But 2014 is the year.”

When will Digital Death go mainstream in Israel?

When will Digital Death go mainstream in Israel?

You may not relish thinking about you or your family suffering from injuries or illnesses in the future, yet you have an insurance covering these very options, right?

The possibility of your untimely death is not something you enjoy thinking about, yet you make a will just to be on the safe side, correct?

The probability of you or your loved ones dying is not something you like thinking about, yet you sit down with your spouse, children, siblings or parents, and discuss your digital legacy, assets and estate, just as a precaution, true?

Oh, you don’t?

Let me guess why: Because you haven’t thought about it yet.

That’s OK, I didn’t think about it either. Neither did my brother before he was killed when he was hit by a car on March 2, 2011.

The term “Digital Death” refers to the digital legacies, assets and estate the “modern deceased” leave behind, of both financial and sentimental value. It’s everything you have digitally created and stored: Offline in files, pictures and videos in your computer, tablet or smartphone, and online in emails, social networks, cloud storage services, online banking accounts, virtual shops and others.

While we may not be old or wealthy enough to accumulate many physical assets, we probably are internet savvy enough to accumulate digital assets (How many online accounts do you use? How many do the younger members of your family use?).

Dealing with physical assets of the deceased is something we already know how to do: We have legislation, legal precedence and social norms to guide us, as well as experience gathered over a long period of time. This is not the case with digital assets, however. There is no legal precedence in Israel (and only a few in the world), no local social norms and no Israeli legislation.

As this is a relatively recent phenomenon, there is very little personal experience as well – but that’s going to change, soon. The number of people dying with no one but the deceased knowing neither where he or she stored all this digital wealth nor their usernames and passwords, is growing exponentially.

In the United States, five states currently have Digital Death legislation, and 18 are in various stages of catching up. Each state is struggling to define its own solution, to various degrees of scope and success, as there is (as yet) no Digital Death Uniform State Laws or Federal Law.

In Israel? There is none.

International internet providers such as , , , , and LinkedIn clearly publish their policies regarding posthumous access online.

of the Israeli ISPs whose policies I have been checking on a regular basis since 2012 publish a policy regarding posthumous access to the accounts of their users: Netvision 013Bezeq International, , Internet RimonCafé TheMarker, and Israblog (which is now defunct – another form of digital death to all the content stored in it). Even the ISPs that actually have a clear posthumous policy and procedure, such as , don’t publish it online. I gathered their varying policies one by one (they are detailed in my blog, here: Technical Guide), as a service to the public. Some Israeli ISPs policies might surprise you with how easy – or how difficult – it will be to kin or heirs to gain access to accounts of deceased relatives or loved ones after their death.

As the awareness of the importance of Digital Death grows, people are encouraged to manage their digital assets ahead of time. Even the USA.gov blog posted about it.

In Israel? Using an online solution to manage your digital assets, as it is done outside the text of an official will, shall have no legal validity (according to Israeli Inheritance Law and Regulations, Chapter 1, clause 8a). Israel allows only one will and only in one format: Pen on paper (clause 18-20 in Chapter 3: Inheritance by Will, Article one).

Is the most unbearable scenario of all for you that in which people go through your private, personal stuff after your death? Even loved ones, or especially loved ones? That’s understandable, as we all cherish our privacy while we’re alive. Do we also cherish our privacy after our death? Some international ISPs – like – and some Israeli ISPs – walla!, Netvision or Bezeq International – will release the content of your email account to your kin or heirs.

So you should manage your digital assets regardless to what your wishes are: there are no right or wrong choices, only YOUR choices vs. choices made by outside factors, such as the changing policies of the various ISPs.

Do you remember that horrible moment when the technician lifted his or her gaze and sadly, not quite looking you in the eyes, told you your hard drive is lost beyond repair and with no hope of recovery? Remember that hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realized your phone or tablet was stolen, with irreplaceable pictures and videos inside it? How about that time your house was broken into and your computer was stolen with invaluable data in it?

Now multiply those feelings with the pain of losing a loved one, and then multiply the data lost from that one occasion or one lost device with the loss of everything the recently deceased had stored digitally for the past who-knows-how-many-years, and you’ll get a glimpse of what families of the modern deceased are going through.

So, if you are using the Internet, manage your digital assets, legacy and estate, just like you would manage your insurance or will.

If you are a lawyer, advise your clients to manage their digital estate.

If you are an Israeli internet provider, have a clear posthumous policy and publish it online prominently.

If you are the Israel Defense Forces, add Digital Death data to the personal data you have soldiers fill in on their recruitment forms.

If you are an Israeli authority, put in place regulations for Israeli ISPs and adapt legislation to suit our age of technology.

Let’s not wait for the local version of sad stories such as Justin EllsworthBenjamin Stassen or to stir you into action. Let me be your wake up call.