Not again. The news is full of reports that more than 500 million online users had their privacy breached in the recent Yahoo online hack. Yahoo is not alone – LinkedIn, MySpace, Dropbox, Target, Anthem, Sony — it’s impossible to keep track, but you can see a list of the largest data breaches of all time for a trip down memory lane. And now we learn that Russian hackers are trying to compromise our voting and election systems.
What’s a person to do?
Well, if you fear your info was leaked in the recent Yahoo leak, the company has an info page of signs of a hacked Yahoo account and what to do.
But taking remedial steps after the horse gets out of the barn doesn’t help you much for protection from the next attack. If your house was robbed, you’d take steps to beef up security, and online isn’t much different – you need to take serious preventive steps now to avoid exposure. It’s human nature to put this off – plus, it can be hard to know just what steps to take. That’s why we were happy to see that the recent Consumer Reports has made online security a focus of the new issue.
Their excellent article 66 Ways to Protect Your Privacy Right Now is a comprehensive must-read, covering online, mobile and real-world security matters. It includes concrete tips, how-tos, and videos on the following topics:
- Screen locks
- Snail mail privacy
- Unbreakable passwords
- Mobile account safety
- Connected devices
- Handling public WiFi
- Everyday encryption
- Facebook settings
- Home WiFi settings
- Boosting web browser privacy
- Beating ransomware
- How to avoid phishing schemes
- Google settings
If you find 66 steps a little overwhelming, here’s their suggestion for a shortcut: The Consumer Reports 10-Minute Digital Privacy Tuneup
Here are some related resources that we’ve previously posted:
Initial reviews for Windows 10 are in and they’re pretty positive overall. Reviewers generally say there’s a lot to like about the new operating system, which maintains many of the best mobile features of 8 while fixing some of the biggest headaches for desktop users. It introduces a slimmed down new browser, dumping the oft-criticized Internet Explorer, and it also introduces Cortana, a personal assistant similar to Apple’s Siri. Plus, you can upgrade for free – here’s how. But critics are raising alarms about privacy issues.
Here are reviews of some of the best new Windows 10 features
Windows 10 Privacy Matters
Despite largely positive reviews, many techies and security experts are raising privacy alarms. Some of the issues you should be aware of: Windows 10 has a system of automatic updates – updates are no longer optional. If you like to customize things, know that many of your application preferences will now default to Windows products unless you change settings. On sign-up, you will be opting in to ad tracking/customized ads unless you opt out. Many are also citing privacy issues raised by use of the personal assistant Cortana but, in fairness, these are probably no greater than those raised when using Siri or Google Now. (See: Cortana vs Google Now vs Siri: Battle of the personal assistants and another comparison here.
While you can change default settings, everything is a trade off. Shutting some features down in the interests of privacy may also detract functionality. Here are steps that you can take to maintain maximum control – and what, if anything, you give up in the process:
“Plenty of sites have published lists of all the features you should turn off in Windows 10 to protect your privacy, but many don’t explain in detail what each of these settings do, which makes it hard to separate FUD from fact. So let’s go through those settings and explain what we know about them, where the real problems are, and how to turn everything off.”
If you haven’t installed yet and maximum privacy/customization is important to you, Tech Republic suggests that you do a custom install rather than the default “Express” installation. They walk through ways you can do that, or if you already installed Express, how to change settings. Here’s another article from How to Geek on Custom vs. Express installation and from Lifehacker on How to Tweak Windows 10 and Fix Its Minor Annoyances.
Small businesses have become more aware over the years of the importance of data protection and backup. It’s a rare company that doesn’t have backup procedures in place, but it’s always a good idea to make sure those policies and procedures are up to date. Since surveys show that the average data breach costs a company $7.2 million, or $214 per breached record, properly protecting your company’s data should always be one of the top items on your priority list. Plus, many states are enacting laws about customer data privacy and security, and at this writing, 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have enacted legislation requiring notification of security breaches involving personal information.
Experts recommend that you routinely back up your data, develop data and disaster recovery plans and educate your employees to the importance of customer data security.
The last is crucial in today’s increasingly mobile society. A recent survey has found that up to 80% of workers in small to midsize businesses routinely use their own portable devices such as laptops, iPhones and iPads to work from home or on the road. Although most companies have formal policies in place to protect their vital data in the office, a surprising data protection gap has emerged with the growth of off site workers. Fully one third of companies let employees make their own decisions about how -or whether – to back up company and client data on their own devices and as a result, valuable data could easily be lost or compromised. Instead of these informal arrangements, it’s a good idea to implement a formal Acceptable Use Policy that may include installing security software on the employee’s device.
If your business entails storing personal customer data electronically, you should talk with your independent insurance agent about exactly what your business liability insurance covers and discuss whether you need a specialized product to cover data loss coverage and electronic data liability to deal with the aftermath of a data breach. And while you’re having that discussion, you might also inquire about cyber liability coverage for protection against various legal liabilities related to disseminating information via the Internet.