Monday, January 28, 2013

Data Privacy Day

Data Privacy Day

January 28 is the date set aside annually as Data Privacy Day.  The official Data Privacy Day theme is: Respecting Privacy, Safeguarding Data and Enabling Trust.

 Let us take a closer look at why we would want to safeguard our data and steps we can all take for keeping our data safe.


What information do you store on your computer?
Home computers have rapidly become the storage place not only for personal correspondence but also for financial data, including bank records and government tax return forms.  This information in the wrong hands can, and does, result in identity theft.
What information do you share on social network sites?

Facebook is one of the largest social network sites where people connect with not only friends and family but also acquaintances.  These acquaintances may be people they "met" at other sites, forums or through friends and family.  However, they are only known virtually.

Not only is the information you share on sites like Facebook data, so is your home town, where you went to school, when you graduated, your birth date, address and telephone number as well as names and birth dates of family members.  If this information is public, it is the very information that identity thieves can use.

What about your smart phone?  Do you check in at every location as you go about your daily travels and share it on Twitter or Facebook?  Do you announce and document business or family trips?

Information stored on your computer or shared on social networking sites includes data that needs to be safeguarded to protect your privacy.

Safeguarding Data

The message about having an up-to-date antivirus software and firewall has been well received by home computer users.  When helping with malware removal, it is has been a very long time since I have seen a computer without antivirus software and a firewall.  Computer users are also getting much more conscientious about installing security updates and keeping third-party software updated.

This is all good news, but malware writers are very clever and manage to find a way to infect computers.  In addition to the standard antivirus, firewall, updating what else can you do to safeguard your data?

In addition to keeping your computer and software programs updated, following are a some general suggestions for protecting the data on your computer:
  1. Protect your wireless router with a password.
  2. Don't open e-mail, instant message or Facebook attachments you are not expecting.
  3. Do not click anywhere on a pop-up or warning from a program you did not install.  Use the keyboard shortcut Alt + F4 to close the window.
  4. Pay close attention when installing software.  Do not blindly click through the screens or you may end up with more than you expected.
  5. Whenever possible, only download software programs from the vendor site.  Keep in mind that free is not always free.
  6. Always scan any file you download from the Internet.
  7. Have a back-up plan in place, particularly for documents, pictures and other files that cannot be replaced. 
  8. Use a complex password, not a "dictionary word" or family name.
What about safeguarding the data you share on social networking sites like Facebook?  

Facebook makes it easy to connect and share information with friends and family.  However, it is critical to ensure that you are not openly sharing personal information that could make you a target of identity theft. 

See this excellent guide by Sophos, Facebook Security Best Practice, which not only covers information and setting recommendations but also explains the reasoning for the recommendations. 

Another resource that is helpful for Facebook users is Facecrooks, a source for not only privacy information but also the latest hoaxes that regularly circulate on Facebook.

A few easy steps will keep both the data on your computer as well as the information you share both secure and private.

Remember - "A day without laughter is a day wasted."
May the wind sing to you and the sun rise in your heart...

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