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.

 

FTC Issues Warning Letter to Tenant Screening Companies: PRC's Assistance Acknowledged

In researching our latest Fact Sheet 38: A Renter’s Guide to Privacy, we compiled a list of data brokers that provide tenant screening services to landlords.  We shared this information with the Federal Trade Commission and indicated our concerns. In general, we receive more complaints about the data broker industry than any other privacy topic.

The FTC subsequently notified six such companies and warned them of their obligation to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  For more information, see the Federal Trade Commission's April 3, 2013 press release. Read the letter warning six tenant screening companies of their obligation to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, here.

If you have encountered problems with similar companies in your efforts to rent a property, we encourage you to file a complaint with the FTC.  You may also contact the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse with your questions and complaints.

The FTC’s Data Broker Report: What does it mean for you?

The data broker industry has been on the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s (PRC) radar for over a decade, and we continue to receive questions and complaints about data brokers almost every day. Lawmakers, regulators, and media have focused more attention on the industry in recent years, but it is still difficult for individuals to understand what is going on and why they are unable to exercise any meaningful control over their information.

On May 27, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report titled “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability.”  The report is the result of an FTC study of nine data brokers offering people-search, marketing, and/or risk mitigation products.  It explains how particular data brokers operate, lays out risks and benefits they pose to individuals, and asks Congress to consider legislative solutions. 

Debt collector or scam artist? Know how to spot a fake

As we become increasingly reliant on digital data, we sometimes take for granted that the companies we entrust with our information are taking the necessary steps to keep it safe. Many are, but many are still way behind and that is what the hackers, cybercriminals and scam artists are counting on.

The fake debt collector scam is particularly disturbing. While the scam isn’t a new one, criminals are finding innovative ways to accomplish their goals of stealing your money, your identity, or both.

Recently, the database of a national collection and debt service company was breached. Specific information about individuals was accessed, including the amount of debt owed, names, phone numbers, addresses, co-signer information, and Social Security numbers. Fraudsters then posed as legitimate debt collectors. With such a vast knowledge of the account holders’ information, an individual would have little reason to be suspicious.

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