Data Privacy Day: a reminder to do a cyber security self-audit

We're on our computers more often than ever before, and scammers know it.
business man hand use mobile phone streaming virtual business network process diagram (Source: Storyblocks)
(Source: Storyblocks)

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – On this Data Privacy Day, the Better Business Bureau and the National Cyber Security Alliance have some ways you can do a quick self-audit.

“Digital targeting by scammers is on the rise, never more so than in the past 36 months due to the onset of the pandemic,” says BBB Director of Public Relations and Communications Josh Planos. “Scammers are aware that we’re on our computers, we’re living a digital life, more than we ever have previously.”

More time online gives scammers more opportunity, but you can take that away, starting by limiting just how much you share online.

“Certainly don’t share your personal sensitive information,” says Planos. “Your social security number is a big one. Once that is accessed by a scammer, it’s really hard to nip that in the bud before subsequent damages occur.”

There are more run-of-the-mill tidbits of information you should keep to yourself, as well: your hometown, birthdate, workplace, and so on. These are all things that seem innocuous on their own, but together they could be used to help somebody access your accounts. Remember also that attacks may come from places you would never expect.

“Pay attention to some of those internet-connected devices, which seems to be everything in our homes these days,” Planos cautions. “You want to know what the privacy policy is for these items, and how that information is being shared, if it’s being shared at all.”

Your smart thermostat, for instance, doesn’t need to know anything other than what temperature you’d like your home to be. Just pay attention out there, and you should be just fine.

Here are some more tips provided by the BBB and NCSA:

  • Share with care. Posts on social media last a long time. Consider who will see the post, how it might be perceived by readers, and what information it might reveal about the individual posting it.
  • Manage privacy settings. Check the privacy and security settings on web services and apps and set them to your comfort level for information sharing. Each device, application or browser used will have different features to limit how and with whom you share information.
  • Personal info is like money: Value it. Protect it. Personal information, such as purchase history, IP address, or location, has tremendous value to businesses – just like money. Make informed decisions about whether or not to share data with certain businesses by considering the amount of personal information they are asking for, and weighing it against the benefits you may receive in return.
  • Make your passwords long and strong. Use long passwords with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols – eight characters for most accounts, twelve characters for email and financial accounts. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts, especially email and financial. Keep a paper list of your passwords in a safe place, not on or near your computer. Consider using a password vault application.
  • Keep tabs on apps. Many apps ask for access to personal information, such as geographic location, contacts list and photo album, before using their services. Be thoughtful about who gets that information, and wary of apps that require access to information that is not required or relevant for the services they are offering. Delete unused apps on your internet-connect devices and keep others secure by performing updates.
  • Lock down your login. For your online accounts, use the strongest authentication tools available. Your user names and passwords are not enough; consider two-factor authentication for key accounts like email, banking, and social media, especially for access on mobile devices.
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar links. Whether at home or at work, don’t click on links from unfamiliar sources or unexpected correspondence. One false click can infect a whole computer… or a whole business.
  • Pay attention to internet-connected devices. Smart thermostats, voice control systems, cars, even refrigerators are just the beginning of the growing list of devices that watch our homes and track our location. Read the privacy policy and understand what data is being collected and how it will be used.
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