Digital graveyards: where old accounts go to rest

by | Oct 19, 2023

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Digital graveyards: where old accounts go to rest and how to bury them with online data management

Imagine you’re in a cemetery. You look at a headstone. Instead of a stranger’s name and date, it lists your personal information like your birthday, password, and even your address and phone number. It’s not just one headstone either, it’s hundreds of them with your personal data posted for anyone to read. This isn’t a surreal nightmare. This is the reality of poor online data management that creates old online accounts that won’t die.

Keep reading to see just how dangerous dormant accounts are, how to track them down, and why the best data management includes deleting old online accounts.

Why you need the best data management for online accounts that won’t die

Try to think of the number of online accounts you’ve made.

The answer you came up with is likely a fraction of the actual number since the average internet user has racked up 240 online accounts that require a password.

It may seem impossible for you to have that many accounts at first, but that includes every shopping platform, online tool, and news site that you’ve ever entered an email and password on to access, even if you don’t remember doing so.

Data breaches

Do you know what to do after a data breach? Don’t worry if you said no, because the truth is that it’s nearly impossible to retrieve data once it’s been leaked online. After all, one of the few undisputed rules of the internet is that once you publish information online it’s out there forever.

That means your old passwords, emails, and personal details you used to create those accounts are available forever to be used for threats like phishing attacks and banking scams. Data breaches through old accounts are even more likely since if you’ve forgotten about a account then you haven’t updated it with a new password, may have reused the password, and have not added security measures like using two-factor authentication to protect your accounts.

Data sharing with 3rd parties

Even without a data breach, 52% of apps share your data with third parties which can mean those details can be accessed even with safe passwords and secure online data management.

As a result, unused accounts are like the first domino in a long line that is just waiting to cause a chain reaction. One account breach can share your email, password habits, and personal information used to make an account like current or past addresses. That leaked information can then have an even larger impact since it can be used to answer verification questions on accounts with updated security!

How to find your old online accounts

Even the best data management plans won’t work if you don’t know which accounts to target. Finding those accounts can be extremely difficult since there could be hundreds of them and you’ve likely forgotten the majority of them.

Start by making a list of every online account you can remember. Include apps in this list and search through your phone to get a complete list of those that you’ve made an account to use. Then follow these steps to track down the old online accounts that you can’t remember.

  • Check your preferred web browser’s list of saved login information. This will be a quick and easy list of places you’ve created an account, password, and saved it in your web browser for fast logins. This information is often found under the settings or preferences section in your web browser.
  • Check which third-parties are using your most used accounts. For example, if you follow the path Settings > Password & Security > Apps Using Your Apple ID on your iPhone you’ll see each third-party account connected to your apple ID. Repeat this process for your Facebook, Google, and Instagram accounts.
  • If you already use a password manager, then check your list of old passwords to make sure they’re tied to accounts that you still use.
  • Search through your email for account confirmation emails and list which accounts show up as confirmed. Use terms like “username” or “account” to get started.
  • You can also perform a simple Google search of your email or username to see if any associated accounts appear.
  • Sites like haveibeenpwned are useful to see which accounts were involved in data breaches and need immediate attention. Be sure to verify a sites authenticity if using one other than haveibeenpwned.

How to delete old online accounts

In an ideal world all you would need to do is click delete to erase an old online account on the hosting site. Unfortunately, many sites and apps make it difficult to completely delete an online account and the data that goes along with it. As a result, you may need help to completely delete your account. If that’s the case, then here’s where you should start!

  • JustDeleteMe is a directory with information on how to delete online accounts. All you need to do is enter the site name and it will show you the available steps to deleting your account.
  • Visit each site’s website support and privacy information for details on how to delete your account and data.
  • Contact customer service for each specific site and work with them to delete your account.
  • If necessary, review your country or state’s privacy laws to support your right to delete your account and data online while working with customer service.
  • If nothing else works, then you can search online for other people’s experience deleting accounts with a specific site or app. If you’re having a hard time deleting an account, then chances are others had the exact same problem and may have shared a solution.

Subscribe to the Quantum Fiber blog for more cybersecurity tips to help keep your data safe!

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author avatar
Michael Erpenbach
Michael Erpenbach is a writer who dived into the world of tech after his first job installing electronics on houseboats. Since then, he has specialized in cybersecurity and finding solutions for his dad’s tech issues. When not writing about technology for Quantum Fiber he spends his time reading, falling down coffee-centric rabbit holes, and finding excuses to go outside.
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