What Happens After A Hacker Dies

What Happens After A Hacker Dies

On December 2014, Michael Hamelin, a hacker and physicist, died in an unfortunate car crash. He is survived by his wife, a scientist named Beth Hamelin — who not only has to deal with the grief that comes with a loved one passing on, but also has to manage the intense security measures that Hamelin left behind.

Today, The Daily Dot published a story that chronicles some of the difficulties that come with death, technology, and social media. After Michael’s death, Beth Hamelin was left a bevy of gadgets and accounts that she couldn’t access because of how well-secured Michael had left them. Since Michael was a security expert, he made sure that all of his sensitive information was on lockdown. But now that he has passed away, even small things like changing the wi-fi password have turned into a challenge for his family:

Beth is not a professional hacker, so when she walked into the room where her husband hosted over a dozen well-secured Web and email servers, she had no idea what to do with them, how to shut them down, or even what they really were. Michael’s encrypted personal computers and safe-guarded personal Internet accounts seemed impenetrable.

Not knowing the passwords meant Beth didn’t know how to access the thousands of family photos Michael kept safe and secure on digital storage. As of publication, after months of searching, she still hasn’t found them.

Beth is also finding servers whose purpose and function is a mystery, on top of fully encrypted hardware that she can’t gain access to. Specific accounts across the web are also providing their own difficulties. Google, for example, has been unresponsive to the family’s attempts to access Michael’s information. Michael’s Apple accounts are also unavailable, because Apple doesn’t have a policy in place to help the next of kin.

Thankfully, at least a few social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter, have been helpful in letting the Hamelins deal with Michael’s information — but overall, the entire experience sounds like a harrowing ordeal, the likes of which most people wouldn’t know how to deal with.

You can read more about the “digital afterlife” of Michael Hamelin here.

Picture: phi-AU


  • I have my security details updated and stored, and the details are in my will, for just this reason.
    Various people have been sent the passwords on how to decrypt the stored information that would be released upon my death, which would then let them access everything. It is a tricky problem that takes some planning.

  • I suppose it’s just not something people think about often enough. I’d bet it’ll become more thought of in the near future…

    It’s always weird seeing the facebook account of someone who has died. It’s almost eerie…I remember seeing an account of a friend of a friend. It was just a dead stop in a timeline, no warning…just end.

    • I have experienced this quite a lot recently. Thankfully, like your scenario mine have all been friends of friends or distant relations. I guess it is a morbid curiosity that I check out their social media accounts and as you said, the timeline/wall/whatever just ends. Strange thing to see.

  • …and then you need good friend to sneak in and remove all the porn before family members see it.

  • Why not make dead man switches on smart watches? When it detects your heart rate has stopped, it emails you details to some one.

  • The terminology here is pretty funny and that you would see from someone in their mid 60’s, the equipment all sounds legit like maybe the guy just hosted servers for websites no hacking involved.. It just seems odd the wife seems so disconnected to her partner.

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