There is a misconception that electronic data can be secured. Everyone suffers from it. The fact is – the moment your data turns to 1’s and 0’s, you can potentially kiss it goodbye. Your text messages, phone calls (yes, they are 1’s and 0’s), emails, documents, banking information – it’s all available to anyone intelligent and capable enough of intercepting it. The worst part is that you won’t know it’s been intercepted until it’s been abused and too late. Even worse, the problem is so widespread that fixing it requires a complete re-invention of the fundamental building blocks that every piece of technology today is based on.
Before you start fashioning tinfoil hats and start stuffing your money into a mattress, let’s accept that there is no turning back. Nobody is going to go revert to keeping paper accounting books or sending messages via the postal service any time soon. Times have changed, and you need to change with them.
The data that’s out there on you that either you or someone else has turned into 1’s and 0’s is extensive. Birth records, banking, phone logs, driving records – there’s little that doesn’t exist in an electronic format about you. You have no control on how the DMV is to secure your information or how the Toy Store encodes your credit card number on their servers, let alone how it’s transmitted to the bank every time you buy something from them. In fact – you will never know the extent of which the information out there that exists on you.
The risks and vulnerabilities aren’t clear, and the choices are few as to what about you can and is made electronic. But isn’t being cutting edge risky by definition? Sure, but today these technologies are widespread and no longer cutting edge. They’ve been around awhile, evolved a bit and are still just as vulnerable today as they were 5, 10 or even 15 years ago.
What you need is a privacy management strategy. That is, rather than depending on everyone else to do the right thing, you must take matters into your own hands. How do you protect yourself from what can only be described as inevitable data theft? Here’s some suggestions on where to start:
- Check your credit constantly. Subscribe to a service that notifies you if it’s been checked or reported on. Freeze your credit when you don’t intend to use it.
- Change your passwords on ALL of your accounts that you have control over once every 3-6 months at a minimum. Use something cryptic, but not too difficult to remember.
- Watch your bank account transactions. Check your online banking twice a week and make sure there is nothing suspicious.
- Never use a public Internet terminal for anything. No exceptions.
- Keep your Anti-Virus up to date.
- Stay alert to common scams. You should know all about 411 Scams, Phishing and Wire scams at the very least.
- Don’t ever give any personal information (including your name) to anyone who calls you or any number you haven’t verified to be legitimate.
- Information that simply cannot get out should stay on paper, locked up per traditional security measures. Don’t take chances.
- Set security to be very tight and private on all Social Media sites. Follow forums and blogs on security best practices.
- Opt-Out of everything you can – The Do-Not-Call Registry, Junk Mail, Information sharing at your credit card company, etc.
- Understand what data is being collected about you – do your research before signing up for anything.
Everyone is vulnerable in different ways. Some folks can leave their passwords set to ‘1234’ and never get hacked. Others have their ungodly complex and hard to remember passwords hacked almost as fast as they thought them up. There is no silver-bullet for securing your information.
Without a proper management strategy, you leave yourself open to being the next victim.