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Data Catastrophe Close Call

I almost had a data catastrophe last week which is worthy of its own post. It all comes down to not being able to remember a password and this is the second time this year I’ve almost had a catastrophe like this.

The first time was when I woke up in the middle of the night, couldn’t fall immediately back to sleep and decided to check my phone. I saw that it was due for an update so without thinking when ahead with it. Now with a system update you’re required to put in you pin instead of a bio-metric after restart. I had not considered this and there is something about the night which changes your mindset and thoughts come in a bit differently than they do in the day. I have put in my pin to unlock my phone thousands of times but I kept getting it wrong!

After three or four tries I sat up and started to panic. I went to my computer but did not record my latest pin in my password database! OK, so then I really started to panic. I remembered messaging my pin to my wife once so she could unlock it and take pictures of me doing something. I woke her up, we checked through her messages from me but it was not in there.

Disappointed and scared I went back to my computer and looked up what to do if a pin had been forgotten. Other than resetting your phone the only other trick was doing a remote unlock through Google. I tried this but did not have that setting turned on in my phone!!! Normally I would have but I believe there was a security override since I also use the phone from work and there may be some software that doesn’t let me turn that setting on since work e-mail is also on the phone.

Anyway, after 10 wrong passwords my phone was going to erase all the data and I only had three tries left. That would have been horrid to me not because I didn’t have an old backup but because it literally takes about a week to set everything up the way I like it. I’d have to log into everything again, change a million settings and I also use authenticator apps for many two step verifications and that would have been lost as well! So yes I was extremely panicked.

Anticlimax here but I got it on my second to last try. I then wrote that pass code down in a number of places.

But that was the lesser of the two possible catastrophes, an even worse one happened on Friday. It follows the same pattern regarding a password. I’ve learned that with main passwords used everyday I eventually don’t think about them, my fingers just automatically put them in. However, if I have a “brain hiccup” and miss one little piece of that password then I’ll be in trouble. I’ll be in trouble because my fingers will make the same mistake and I’ll then start thinking about it. Once I think about the password I’ll realize I really cannot visualize it I just have to let my motor memory do its work. But as the motor memory makes more mistakes those mistakes start to override the correct password!

The only solution is to go take a break, do something else and try not to think about it. I’ve found this is impossible because I’m petrified of losing all my data!

What happened last week is that I had another virtual happy hour with old friends I haven’t seen in many years. I had too much wine and when I went to open the file which contains all my data I kept getting the password wrong! All of my data is in a VeraCrypt container. Everything. Is. In. There! And as for backups those are all in VeraCrypt containers too! OK, no problem, I had too much wine, I’ll remember it in the morning.

Morning comes and my mind is very hazy. I go to the computer and type in the password. Wrong. I try again. Wrong. I tried twenty more times and all were wrong. However, unlike my phone the data there is no program which will automatically erase my data based on a number of failed attempts.

I was only a little concerned at this point because I remember I had given that password to my wife and let her know it was extremely important. I had put it in her password manager myself. Well guess what. Never rely on a wife as a password backup. She has a ton of passwords in her password keeper but not the one I had given her. I was a bit shocked to tell you the truth. Give a wife a super important password, it will eventually get lost as it slips out of mind as time goes by.

Now I was panicking. The more mistakes I made the more I started second guessing myself. I was terrified because that is 26 years worth of data in there. That data is a record of my life! And needless to say it contains my password program which of course contains all my passwords.

All of my data, gone, in a blink because I couldn’t remember the correct password!

Again, an anticlimax. I calmed my mind, I tried different combinations of upper versus lowercase letters and after about 80 failed tries I got it to open.

The experience scared me so much I have now adopted the old school method of writing it down on paper and hiding it in a secure location. I have also given it to my wife (again!) and told her to keep it as though her life depended on it. I told her that this is what she would need if I die and showed her how to get into my computer and use VeraCrypt. I don’t want her snooping either so gave her the warning to only use in case of emergencies because if she presses a wrong button when using VeraCrypt then it would erase everything. This is true but what I didn’t mention are all the backups I also have.

However, I have also ordered another external drive and have decided to keep a copy of a backup that is not encrypted. I got a little scared reading the forums where a few commenters said VeraCrypt messed up and their data got lost. VeraCrypt has worked perfectly for me for years and I’m sure those commentors just weren’t smart enough to use VeraCrypt but it still spooked me. That data is my life and I would be absolutely devastated if it ever was lost. So the last fail-safe I think I need is to create an un-encrypted backup. I have three other backups one of which is in Ohio in case the house were to burn down. But I had not considered forgetting my password or if VeraCrypt should suddenly go bonkers. As of Friday when I receive my 2TB external I’ll have all my bases covered.

By 魔手

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! \(^.^)/