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East Tennessee tech expert shares tips for keeping your online accounts safe

The CEO of a local IT company says you should manage your digital legacy the same way you would your physical legacy.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With scammers and hackers on the rise, local tech experts are sharing ways you can keep your online accounts safe.

Jeff Schmidt is the CEO of Avertium, an organization that helps companies stay protected against cybersecurity threats. He said you should treat your online legacy with the same urgency you would treat your physical one.

"So the physical environment, you might have a safe or somewhere where you put your most valuable possessions," Schmidt mentioned. "Maybe when you go on a trip, and you are going to be gone for a period of time, you take specific things and you say, "I am not going to be at home, so I am going to do something and put this away in a safe place rather than leaving it out in the open'. And we have to think about our digital presence the same way about how you protect that."

Schmidt pointed out the number one thing you should consider protecting is your email, something he said many people tend to overlook.

"If you lose a password to, maybe, your bank account, or your insurance company, or an investment account, that recovery will happen through that personal account email in most cases," Schmidt explained.

So, what can you do to prevent getting hacked or losing access to your online accounts?

Schmidt said the first thing you can do is turn on multi-factor authentication, which basically asks you to prove in more than one way that it is you who is actually trying to access the account. It may, for example, ask you to provide your password and then it will send a code to your phone for verification.

Schmidt also recommends using a password manager, which he said will serve as a vault for your passwords and also make it easier for you to use longer, more difficult passwords that you might not remember on your own.

"Password managers allow you to have knowledge of what accounts are active and which are being used," Schmidt added. "It also puts username, passwords and multifactor in a single location, so it is good hygiene to have as an individual."

The other important tool password managers offer, according to Schmidt, is that they allow you to share your passwords with someone you trust, like a loved one. He added this can come in handy in case of emergencies, including a disability or death, to help you keep control of that person's online accounts.

"If you do not have that information, then you need a death certificate, you have to work with the company," Schmidt explained. "So you are going to have to put that in, you will also have to know what accounts were actually active. So knowing what all those are and being able to start to shut those down and memorialize those become important."

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