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.