Max Siegel

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How to Avoid Losing Access to All of Your Accounts in 2019

After several days of use, my new iPhone 11 had already developed many scratches on its screen. So against better judgement, I bucked up and trekked to the Americana at Brand on a Sunday, and went to an appointment at the Apple Store, just a week after the company rolled out new iPhones.

Perhaps it was a defective first batch of phones, or perhaps it was just a continuation of the glass in last year’s iPhones. Regardless, I shared good news on Twitter:

The problem was, I’d wiped my old new iPhone too soon, before I had a chance to set up the new new iPhone that Apple gave me in-store. This led to some sobering insights into to the fragility of our increasingly digital lives, even when adhering to best practices and using a password manager:

With regards to password managers

I do not know most of my accounts’ passwords, including my Apple ID; I only know my Master Password, to unlock 1Password. If you are also in the Apple ecosystem (aka the “walled garden”), this is a problem. The Secret Key, which combines with the Master Password to encrypt or decrypt passwords, gets synced via iCloud Drive. This is a convenient feature, but in order to use it, I needed to know my Apple ID’s password.

Solution: Memorize my Apple ID’s password, which can be accomplished if I use 1Password to create a memorable, word-based password. Print a couple of hard copies of my Secret Key and Apple ID password, and distribute it to friends or family. I could even keep another copy in my wallet.

Good to knows

  • I hoped I’d be able to find my Apple ID in the 1Password app on my Apple Watch. Perhaps this was a WatchOS bug, or a 1Password bug, but the app only listed a few random, out of date passwords 😞

  • It isn’t mandatory to sign in with your Apple ID when setting up a new iPhone. I just transferred my SIM card over from my previous phone, which allowed me to use data in the Maps app to guide me home.

  • If I was to sign in with my Apple ID on the new iPhone, I would have needed to use another Apple device to act as my second factor… which I didn’t have on hand in the Apple Store.

  • Once I was back home, I was able to easily transfer my Apple ID and Wi-Fi information to my new phone and restore nearly all settings and data from my iCloud backup. It even offered to pair my Watch to the new phone; no need to wipe it and restore from a backup.