Did I Leak My Own Data?
Many business owners have asked us that very question: “Did I leak my own data?” Chances are, the answer is yes – even if you or an employee did it unknowingly or in a roundabout way.
You know we live in an ever-connected world. Our own devices know everything about us, and they seem at times to know what we’re thinking before we think it. Having your business data and/or private information within a web of scattered software and devices is an inherent cybersecurity risk.
Know The Risks (and Solutions) for Your Business Data Protection
This is why we at Acme Business believe it’s important for everyone to know what information of yours is being stored, what it’s used for and how to have less of it out there. Here are some IT realities and helpful tips.
Connect … At Your Own Risk
Pretty much everyone today interacts with the internet. There are more than 5 billion people today with regular internet access. We’re using social media, mobile devices and various software (even as simple as frequently using a Gmail account). Most users understand and accept that in order to use these free services and technologies, we have to agree to disclose some of our private information.
The social networks know our preferences, and they know who our friends are. Google scans the content of our emails to offer us customized search results. Mobile apps collect information about us to improve interaction (and increase consumption).
With public outcry or not, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Samsung and many others will continue to gather as much information as possible about their users. Whether it’s to sell that data or use it to enhance understanding of user behavior, it is all part of their business model.
For most of us, it’s either impractical or impossible to break away from these companies. We accept their invasion of our privacy for convenience and/or the value their service offers. Of course, that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to do whatever they want. Increasingly, voices are calling for regulators to implement greater oversight and enact and enforce stronger privacy protection laws for business and personal data protection.
Use Common Sense
The fact that we are consumers of digital services and products and that we waive some of our right to privacy to a greater or lesser extent doesn’t mean our privacy should be undervalued. Apps like Facebook indeed know an awful lot about us, but there’s no reason we should reveal to the social network – or to our social media friends and followers – any more than we need to.
We must be mindful that any post, tweet or photo will be exposed to millions of unknown eyes. Even if we use the strictest privacy settings, all that needs to happen is for someone to take a screenshot and share it with their followers for that data to ‘leak’ into the wider public domain. Therefore, if you don’t want people to know, don’t share it online. That includes personal information, intimate photographs, private documents, and anything else that other people shouldn’t be able to see.
Smart Homes and Wearable Devices
The world of consumer electronics is continuously evolving. When computers were first created there was no privacy risk. Personal computers were not connected to anything. We then connected them to the internet and learned not to tell strangers our passwords. With the smartphone, we also learned about the dangers of the camera and microphone.
But the evolution of modern “smart” technology is relentless. Smart homes record our actions, photograph and record us. (Some even know what we have in the fridge.) Because there is no need to take an active “log in” or manually run an app, our sensitivity to risk decreases, and we forget that the smart device is there, listening to us. Here, too, the rule is: Only use such monitoring devices if you have a real need. It is wise not to install smart cameras and microphones where they can record things we do not want others to see or hear.
Don’t forget your wearable devices. They constantly report your physiological data to a third-party data center. Here, we need to ask ourselves whether we really need non-stop monitoring or whether the danger of this data collection might one day turn out to be greater than the benefit. Leaked Smartwatch data that can be used to locate individuals is not unheard of.
What Can We Do So We Don’t Leak Our Own Business and Personal Data?
For most of us, it’s not possible to completely “disconnect.” As we said, we accept that we must forfeit some degree of our privacy to benefit from tech products and services. But there are things that we can do to reduce unnecessary exposure:
Choose Your Platform, Service and Software Wisely
The expansive tech world offers ample choices for which devices, platforms, services and software you can use. If you’re not happy with the privacy protections of your Chrome browser, for instance, you can explore those offered by alternatives such as DuckDuckGo.
Everything has its own pros and cons, but check out what works for you and/or your organization and optimal cybersecurity. There are alternatives depending on what features you value most.
Explore Privacy Settings
If you choose to use a certain service or platform, take the time to study its privacy features. For instance, on LinkedIn you can check which applications are associated with your account and limit data sharing with third parties, and you can decide which parts of your profile are displayed for viewing by the general public (aka anyone).
Change Default Password on Smart Devices
Smart home devices usually ship with built-in default passwords (or worse, none whatsoever). This makes it easier for hackers to gain access to your device. Change defaults and set your own secure passwords on all IoT devices as soon as you unbox them.
Delete Older Accounts
If you are not using your old Yahoo! Gmail or Hotmail account (or any number of other accounts you probably have on obscure sites and platforms) you should delete them. This will reduce the risk of leaking data from either insecure passwords or insecure storage of your passwords.
If You Choose Wisely, You Won’t Have to Ask ‘Did I Leak My Own Data’
Don’t assume you can leave the safety of your business and private data solely in the hands of service providers. If you’re not comfortable with your information being easily accessible, there are actionable ways to be proactive in protecting yourself and your organization.