If there is an upside to the torrent of headlines about fake news, intelligence leaks, and email hacking surrounding this year’s U.S. election cycle, it’s this: People may be personalizing cyber threats more than ever.
The upside of fake news?
Let’s be honest. Most consumers online easily zip past digital safety headlines and opt for clicks that tease Kylie Kardashians’ lip color or a video that shows them how to magically whip out a chipotle artichoke dip, right?
But the past year of cyber headlines may have shifted the tide a bit. Once distant cyber threats such as digital privacy, cyber security, fake news, fact checking, reputation management, and yes — even (adult) cyber bullying, sadly — have moved into the daily mainstream, which is a huge plus for families and for the average tech user.
‘Hey, this could happen to me.’
More than ever, it’s clear that don’t have to be a celebrity or public official to become a victim of common digital crimes like hacking and privacy leaks. While consumer consequences rarely play out on the public stage, cyber crimes happen every day to thousands of people just like you and me.
Consider some facts:
• Consumers globally lost $158 billion to cybercrime in the past year. In the U.S. alone, the figure is near $30 billion. (Forbes, Jan. 2016)
• 90% of Internet of Things (IoT) devices collect at least one piece of personal information via the device, app, or cloud service. (HP study, July 2014)
• 70% of IoT devices contain a vulnerability that allows an attacker to discover valid user accounts. (HP study, July 2014)
• 91% percent of American adults feel consumers have lost control of personal data that is collected, and 55% of American adults are willing to share some personal data to use a service for free. (Pew Research, 2014)
• 4 million smartphones are lost, and 3.1 million are stolen, and only 7% use encryption or other security protection and only 8% install software that can help a user find a lost phone. (Consumer Reports National Research Center, 2014)
Proactive vs. Reactive
When you stop to consider how deeply connected you are — then add up all the devices that hum beneath your roof — these statistics can suddenly hit closer to home. As our digital roots grow deeper, so too, do the threats to digital privacy and security. If you’ve been reactive when it comes to security gaps in your family, 2017 is the perfect time to commit to becoming more proactive toward privacy.
7 common privacy risks and solutions:
- Leak: Unsecured Devices.
Risk: Hackers and phishers make it their job to break into unsecured computers, tablets, even game systems.
Solution: Pay attention to software and hardware updates. Make sure all of your devices including computers tablets and smartphones are protected with comprehensive security software. Always update your apps and operating systems when new security updates are released. If your phone has an update, you will likely get a push notification on your phone or have an alert sign on your settings icon. Consider installing a comprehensive security solution, such as McAfee LiveSafe.
- Leak: Cloud Storage.
Risk: Hackers looking for outdated authentication systems as entryway to extort users for money
Solution: Don’t trust the cloud with your sensitive data. Look to external hard drives to lock away your most private information.
- Leak: IoT Gadgets, Drones.
Risk: Hackers hoping to access personal information and property via gadget and drone jacking.
Solution: Do your research. Examine the devices’ security standards, before purchasing. A fun, new gadget that doesn’t have stringent security in place just isn’t worth a potential hack.
- Leak: Poorly Protected Smartphones.
Risk: Theft, hackers, and sensitive content getting out and shared.
Solution: Lock down your smartphone. Enable security features on your mobile device such as a) remote wipe encryption b) remote device lock and c) find my phone. Both Apple, Android and Windows phones all have tracking, remote lock and remote wipe integrated into their operating systems. However, you must take a few minutes and enable them. To secure Apple devices (including laptops), go to the iCloud login, for Android phones, go to Google Play website and click “devices.” Tracking in a Windows phone can be configured in Settings and then tracked and locked via the Windows Phone website. While you are locking down your smartphone, shut off all geolocation tracking permissions in your settings.
- Leak: Social Media Sites
Risk: Home burglary, assault, stalkers, identity theft.
Solution: Share with care. Analyze and restrict the information you post on social media sites and apps that request personal information to ensure you are not providing more personal data than necessary. Go through all social profiles and delete email addresses, phone numbers, birth date and any reference to where you live. Mark your profile to “private” and go to your friends list to delete any profiles you don’t recognize. To find what apps you’ve given permissions to access your Facebook profile, go into Settings (to the right of the gear icon), when the menu drops down, click on Apps to view all the apps you’ve allowed to see your personal information. If you don’t use the app anymore, delete it. You can do the same thing on Twitter easily via your Settings, by clicking on your Profile Picture in the top right of your top nav bar. A drop down menu will show your Settings option. Once clicked, you can revoke any app access you don’t use.
- Leak: Poor Personal Computer Habits
Risk: Personal data leaks, identity theft, fraud, financial theft.
Solution: Close as you go. Once you finish using an account or browser, log out. Social networks and apps will continue to share and track information as long as you keep them open. Use anonymous browsing sessions when possible. For basic instructions on how to browse anonymously, check out How-To Geek. Logging out also applies to apps and websites accessed via your mobile devices. Poor computer habits also include logging into public wifi (don’t do it).
- Leak: Casual Attitude
Risk: Allowing a family environment that ignores digital safety puts all family data at risk. It’s time to step up your safeguards.
Solution: Routine, family-wide privacy checks. Now that you’ve cleaned up your data landscape, rally the whole family behind your cause. Keep it fun and make family device privacy checks a routine in your home.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family and @ToniBirdsong. (Disclosures).
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