With a new data breach in the headlines just about every week, consumers are well aware of the need to keep their personal computers safe. It’s always a good idea to update your antivirus and operating systems, back up your data, and use caution when clicking enticing links or opening suspicious emails and attachments. But new frontiers have developed in the cybersecurity world, and they demand new ways of thinking. For National Cyber Security Awareness Month, here are some additional cybersecurity checks to consider.
Know what your app is up to
How many times have you downloaded an app on your mobile device without realizing the information it can access? Cell phones today are computers connected to every aspect of our lives, from personal photos to financial information. And yet many people don’t exercise the same caution as they do on their personal computer. In the rush to download the latest app, you could be giving away contact information, calendar details, and your current location — so it’s important to download apps from only trusted sources and understand what you’re allowing them to do.
Use caution when you’re connecting to unsecured wireless networks. If you access personal information on an unsecured network, you’re opening yourself up to man-in-the-middle attacks, where someone can intercept your data as it is transmitted. This is just as true on a cell phone or tablet as it is on a laptop.
Even the cloud has limits
Another new frontier is the cloud. Most consumers interact with the cloud through data storage websites, which offer online storage for backing up documents and photos that take up limited space on a physical hard drive. Although these services can be helpful, use caution anytime you put potentially sensitive information online, and be sure to examine the terms and conditions of a site. You should know what you are agreeing to when you upload your files. Whether it’s a PDF copy of your will or a Word document with credentials to your financial institutions, your content on the cloud is only as secure as the controls provided by that site.
Once you upload a document to the cloud, a copy of it could potentially be left there — even if you attempt to delete it from the service. (This is similar to when you post a picture on social media but don’t know who may have saved it on their own device.) If there is an undetected breach on a cloud service, your document could be compromised.
Social media scams
Your social media profile is a treasure trove of data that cybercriminals could use to their advantage. Your full name and address, favorite sports team, vacation plans, and likes and dislikes paint a picture that can make you a potential target for a phishing attack. Phishing occurs when someone impersonates a company or authority figure to take advantage of your natural inclination to trust the experts. Armed with your personal information from social media, these impersonators can seem trustworthy and lead you to disclose sensitive information.
Even if you are never targeted by a phishing attack, many websites use the type of information shared in social media (like your first car or the name of your pet) for challenge questions and answers. It’s important to be vigilant in how you share even this seemingly trivial information.
My conclusion: When you’re working and playing in these new frontiers of cybersecurity, it pays to be vigilant.