Big Data: The White House Is Thinking about It -- You Should Too.

The White House recently released a report on big data. While it was highly anticipated by people who closely follow data privacy issues, chances are that it wasn't on the radar of most individuals.  Even so, we believe it is an issue that everybody should start thinking about.  

Why is big data a significant privacy challenge?

As technology advances so does the ability to collect, combine, and analyze data.  This is relevant to individuals because, as the report states, "the volume of information that people create themselves…pales in comparison to the amount of digital information created about them each day."

Individuals often aren’t aware when information about them is collected and used. They may not know who has data associated with them, who that data may be shared with, and whether there are any choices or protections in place (in many instances there are not).

In addition, it is difficult to predict how this information may be used in a way that impacts someone’s life – for better or worse.

Passwords aren't enough! Why you should consider using two-factor authentication

Passwords are dead.  Or so we keep hearing.  On their own, passwords clearly aren't the best way to protect our important information and accounts.  However, for better or worse passwords are still very much alive until the next solution comes along and is widely adopted. 

We have been preaching good password hygiene for many years, and we still think it is important.   But unfortunately data breaches occur quite often and cybercriminals can be quite savvy.  If you want to learn more, the 2014 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report contains information on attacker methods and patterns over the past decade.

You can never assure perfect security, but fortunately you can take some steps to avoid being the low-hanging fruit.  One way to do this is to look for and enable two-factor authentication in your online accounts.  

Mobile Device Security: Basic Tips to Protect Your Data from Thieves and Cybercriminals

With the ever increasing presence of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices in our lives, it is important to be aware of some common privacy and security threats.  These are vast and varied, so the level of privacy and security you seek will likely depend on the information at stake.

Start by thinking about the information on your device.  How valuable is this information to you? Would you be upset if someone accessed it without asking you? What would happen if it were lost or stolen? Below we’ve noted a few things you may want to think about, and some tips to help you get started!

Aside from physical theft, threats such as malware and spyware have become increasingly sophisticated.  The good news is there are some EASY things you can do to reduce your chances of falling victim.

Don't Become a Target: Make Smart Choices to Protect Your Privacy

With all of the media surrounding the Target, Neiman Marcus, and, now, Michaels data breaches (and potentially other retail outlets), it can be overwhelming to determine what you should do to protect yourself.  Even though you can't prevent a breach, there are steps you can and should take to prevent future headache and harm.   

This is an important alert to read even if you weren't a victim of the recent breaches. As privacy and security professionals say on a regular basis, data breaches aren't a question of "if", they are a question of "when." It is best to be prepared and proactive.

Read more to find out our top 5 tips.

Make Protecting Your Privacy Your 2014 New Year's Resolution!

Privacy has been a hot topic in 2013, and the New Year presents a perfect opportunity to examine how we protect our personal information and resolve to do better.  Privacy Rights Clearinghouse poses ten questions to help you manage your privacy in the coming year.

  • Are your computers and mobile devices properly secured?
  • Do you know your apps?
  • Are you following good password practices?
  • Do you practice safe social networking?
  • Have you checked your credit reports recently?

 

 

Are You Considering Using a Personal Mobile Device for Work? Read Our Tips on BYOD!

"Bring your own device," or BYOD, is a popular practice with both employers and employees.  Employees like the convenience.  They don't want to worry about carrying multiple phones or tablets. They like using devices they are comfortable with. And, they can work from anywhere.  Employers like having connected employees, and some believe that BYOD policies save the company money.

The tradeoff for employers is that they lose some control over company data and can face greater legal, business and security risks.  Unfortunately, this may mean employees compromise privacy and control over their own phones and data when they agree to participate in a BYOD program.

Tips for Employees

1.  Read and/or understand the employer's policy before you participate.  BYOD policies will vary depending on who you work for, what kind of data you have access to, what industry you are in, and what your role is.  They may involve formal contracts or informal agreements.   As is often the case, the most important thing to do is understand what you are signing up for!   A BYOD policy can create a win-win situation or a messy dispute.  

If the policy is written, read it thoroughly. If you don't understand it, ask your manager or human resources department to explain what it means. 

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Releases Study: Mobile Health and Fitness Apps: What Are the Privacy Risks?

Many individuals use mobile apps to monitor their health, learn about specific medical conditions, and help them achieve personal fitness goals.  Apps in the “wellness” space include those that support diet and exercise programs; pregnancy trackers; behavioral and mental health coaches; symptom checkers that can link users to local health services; sleep and relaxation aids; and personal disease or chronic condition managers.   

After studying 43 popular health and fitness apps (both free and paid) from both a consumer and technical perspective, it is clear that there are considerable privacy risks for users – and that the privacy policies for those apps that have policies do not describe those risks. However, these apps appeal to a wide range of consumers because they can be beneficial, convenient, and are often free to use. 

Alert: Parents--Five Questions to Ask Before Your Child Downloads a Mobile App

Summer is here and school is out. Kids and teens have a lot of free time which means they will be on their (or your) mobile devices even more than normal.  Smartphones, tablets and other devices provide kids with countless beneficial apps and tools they can use to stay connected, entertain themselves, and learn. At the same time, these can also present privacy risks.

You probably can't, and don't want to, monitor everything your child does on a mobile device.  However, there are a few basic questions you should consider to help safeguard both their experience and their (and your) data.

 

Parents: How Much Should You Share Online When it Comes to Your Kids?

We live in a “social world.”   Parents have many opportunities to disclose information about their children in social forums – by posting family news and photos on Facebook, tweeting your child’s latest accomplishments in sports, even launching a blog.

Social media can be a great tool for parents, but how do you know when you are sharing too much information about your kids?

This is largely a matter of personal choice, but it is important to be aware that the burden generally falls on parents to protect their children’s privacy.   As is often the case, it is easier to be proactive than reactive. 

Here are three very basic points to bear in mind before you share information about your child on social media.

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