Who’s Following Me Now? Staying Safe in a Connected World

January 26, 2018

Happy Data Privacy Day (#PrivacyAware)!

Two weeks ago, I took a long-awaited trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I’ve been there several times, but I’m amazed at how the Disney experience has changed over the last five years. Today, the world of ‘all-things Disney’ is so much easier using the “MagicBand,” a plastic watch-sized bracelet equipped with an RFID radio that tracks your progress through the parks, monitors your purchases, keeps up with wait times and even opens your hotel door (if you’re staying on-site). I must say, though, it's a little odd knowing that Disney is watching your every move, tracking how much you spend and where you spend your time.

Our “digital footprint” is much the same; everywhere we go, and everything we do, is tracked. We’re monitored on the internet, through our smart phones, and on cameras placed virtually everywhere. While 68 percent of consumers say they don’t trust brands to handle their personal information appropriately, last year was a record-breaker in terms of data breaches at such places as Equifax, Verizon and Uber. Sadly, we’re never more than a double-click away from disaster.

The good news is, today is the perfect time to take inventory of your digital presence and make sure you’re doing everything possible to protect your personal information. Data Privacy Day is an international effort held annually on Jan. 28 to create awareness about the importance of respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust. Sponsored by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of this annual effort to bring together businesses and private citizens to share the best strategies for protecting consumers’ private information.

Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS), a leading provider of information availability through managed IT, cloud and recovery services, will observe Data Privacy Day with an employee challenge quizzing workers about their involvement with Data Privacy, while inspiring them to adopt a ‘clean desk policy’ and spot potential data privacy issues and vulnerabilities. It’s important in today's always on/always connected environment to keep your identity safe -- not just as an individual, but as an employee entrusted with valuable information on customers.

Data about you can be used in a variety of ways, sometimes in ways you wouldn’t expect or even approve. We’re moving from the Internet of Things (IoT) to the Internet of Me; when you use connected devices, you’re continuously generating information about yourself and others, and this information can be stolen or used in negative ways.

Here are a few practical tips (courtesy of the National Cyber Security Alliance) that any individual can take to preserve their own identity and the identity of their company, their customers and colleagues:

Personal Information is Like Money: Value and Protect it.

  • Secure your devices: Use strong passwords, passcodes or touch ID features to lock your devices. These security measures can help protect your information if your devices are lost or stolen and keep prying eyes out.
  • Think before you app: Information about you, such as the games you like to play, your contacts list, where you shop and your location, has value – just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it’s collected through apps.
  • Now you see me, now you don’t: Some stores and other locations look for devices with WiFi or Bluetooth turned on to track your movements while you are within range. Disable WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use.
  • Get savvy about WiFi hotspots: Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure, which means that anyone could potentially see what you are doing on your mobile device while you are connected. Limit what you do on public WiFi, and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services on these networks. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or a personal/mobile hotspot if you need a more secure connection on the go.

Keep A Clean Machine

  • Keep your mobile phone and apps up to date: Your mobile devices are just as vulnerable as your PC or laptop. Having the most up-to-date security software, web browser, operating system and apps is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats.
  • Delete when done: Many of us download apps for specific purposes, such as planning a vacation, and no longer need them afterwards, or we may have previously downloaded apps that are no longer useful or interesting to us. It’s a good security practice to delete all apps you no longer use.

The National Cyber Security Alliance website is chock full of information for businesses, individuals, teens and communities. For more resources and tips for managing your privacy, visit https://staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/.

By taking a few steps to respect privacy, safeguard your data and enable trust, everyone can stay safer and more secure online.

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