I’ve been mulling over this newsletter for quite some time. January 28 is Data Privacy Day, so I knew, in broad terms, that I wanted to talk about data privacy for individuals and small-to-mid-size business owners. But what to discuss? So much has happened in the past few months.
Target Data Breach Affects 40 Million
First, the Target data breach, which affected as many as 40 million Americans. This was especially disturbing because, in addition to the extreme breadth and bad timing of the incident, right around the holidays, hackers obtained not only card numbers and expiration dates, but CVV codes, names and email addresses of customers.
CVV codes are those three- or four-digit numbers printed on the back of a card that, theoretically, keep anyone from using the card if they don’t have the physical card in their hand. (Or otherwise have access to the CVV code.)
Target offered customers a free subscription to a credit monitoring service but, in the letter they issued to customers, suggested nothing about how they intend to keep this from happening again. Instead, they put the onus on customers, offering them five ways to protect their own security. (“Don’t use a credit card on the Target website was, surprisingly, not on the list.”)
President Obama Addresses NSA Security Issues
Then President Obama basically offered a non-answer in regard to the NSA tracking citizens’ phone calls. The logistics may change but, ultimately, the U.S. government will continue to collect phone call data Obama pointed out, “”The United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security,” but that leaves us with all sorts of questions about “probable cause.”
The Importance of Data Security Hits Home
Just as I was about to go live with this post, I received a notification from WordPress that someone was attempting to hack the website of one of my long-time clients. Oddly, it was not a bot. There was too much time between the hits, meaning a human being was manually changing the IP addresses.
Thanks to the security measures I put in place for my clients, the person was not successful. But we are changing the passwords on the site and I’m adding another layer of security, just to be sure. “Not on my watch…” as the saying goes.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
The fact is, in the 21st century, there are certain aspects of your privacy it is very hard to protect without avoiding technology entirely. Here are a few measures you can take to make yourself less of a potential victim.
1. Pay with cash.
The Target breach opened many people’s eyes to how vulnerable we really are. We don’t know if security technology will ever evolve to fully keep pace with the hackers. Although it may be inconvenient, consider paying with cash to protect yourself if a data breach like this ever happens again.
2. Encrypt your hard drive.
Yes, Target’s data was encrypted through SSL-encyrption, the industry standard. The hackers still got through. Every other major organization also uses SSL-encryption. For individuals, an encrypted hard drive is much like a house or car alarm. It may not stop criminals entirely, but they’re more likely to pick the house, car or computer that is not protected and is an easier target.
3. Choose your friends and business associates carefully.
In internet security, as in life, you’re judged by the company you keep. That is, if a website looks shady, don’t provide them with your credit card information. Use Paypal to pay, or find another site.
Anyone can insert a badge that claims “SSL encryption.” Are the reviews of the site good? Have you heard of or done business with the company before? Does the site look professional? Follow your instincts to minimize your chances of putting your data at risk.
Who Can You Trust?
For a business owner, security and privacy also means choosing service providers you can trust, who will keep your data encrypted and secure. From Web hosting services to cloud back-up providers and even your webmaster, inbound marketing agency, or social media marketing firm, you want to choose a company you can trust with all your data and your customer’s data.
And if you have any doubt about how Internet Tech Specialists protects your data or you want your website or network protected, please feel free to contact me!