Entries with tag privacy .

5 Tech Trends to Watch in 2014

With advancements in technology occurring daily, there are lots of exciting things to look forward to in 2014.  Here, we take a look at some of the biggest trends that analysts are forecasting this year.

  1. Drone Technology

With the buzz surrounding Amazon’s proposed drone delivery service, expect the conversation about drone technology to continue.  While it doesn’t appear that a consensus will occur in 2014, it’s believed that retail operations and delivery services will press the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to consider the possibility of allowing drones in our airspace.[1]

  1. Web of Things (WoT)

You’ve probably heard of the Internet of Things (IoT) which allows objects to be seamlessly integrated into their environment (see our post).  Some examples are smart thermostats, smart lighting, and smart appliances.  In 2014, expect to hear more about the Web of Things (WoT).[2]  An evolution of the IoT, the WoT explores how objects that contain embedded devices are integrated into the web.[3]

  1. Privacy

More and more, people are becoming increasingly concerned about their online privacy.  Reasons for this are multi-fold.  For one thing, social media users are reporting negative experiences online like bullying and stolen pictures.  The NSA leaks further exasperated people’s privacy concerns.  Expect that going forward, there will be more privacy protection companies and services.[4]  Additionally, there will be an influx of social media platforms that offer an experience grounded in anonymity.[5]

  1. Cloud

Cloud computing—a reference to storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet, rather than using local servers or desktops—is a scalable infrastructure that will experience continued growth in 2014.  In 2011, corporate spending on third-party-managed and public-cloud environments was $28 billion.  IDC expects that number to grow to more than $70 billion by 2015.[6]

  1. 3D Revolution

Expect to see the usage of 3D in more and more applications as new 3D toolkits, services, and platforms are developed.  Today a diverse array of items can be built with 3D printing tools—car parts, batteries, prosthetics, computer chips, jewelry, clothing, and firearms.[7]  Amazingly, 3D printing has even been used to print organs from a patient’s own cells.[8]  Advances in 3D printing and laser cutting have increased the quality, speed, and ease of physical prototyping while bringing down costs.[9]

Minimize Your Digital Footprint

After the NSA leaks, more and more people are concerned about their online privacy.  There are a number of reasons that this is a valid issue.  For one thing, employers can and often do search the Internet to check out a job applicant’s background.  Do you really want that picture of you in Cancun being viewed by an HR representative?  Or consider security breaches.  It’s one thing to share confidential information with a website that you trust.  It’s quite another if that site is hacked and your personal records are made available to strangers.  That said, it’s never a bad idea to minimize your digital footprint and practice caution.  A few pointers:

  1. Delete Unused Web Accounts

One step you can take is to delete old web accounts that aren’t in use.  Sound overwhelming?  Check out the site, JUSTDELETE.ME.  The site offers dozens of direct links to delete accounts from the Internet; it also ranks how easy they are to delete with a color system of green, yellow, and red.

  1. Use Browser Plug-Ins

Browsers today offer a number of useful plug-ins to guard your security.  Take, for instance, MaskMe, a Chrome plug-in.  When a website asks for your email or phone number, MaskMe gives the option of creating masked versions of them.  That way, if the email is shared with spammers, the junk mail isn’t delivered to you.  Instead, necessary account news is forwarded from the masked account to your real one.  Do a search on security-related plug-ins for your browser type to see what’s available.

  1. Be Cautious About What You Share Online

As popular as social media is, it’s easy to get caught up in it, paying less attention to what you share online.  However, as a general rule, it makes good sense not to post anything that you wouldn’t want to be read by someone you didn’t know.  There’ve been numerous cases of people who thought that they were sharing something with only their Facebook friends later finding out that the information was divulged to strangers.  Generally speaking, we recommend that you avoid sharing your children’s photos, your address and phone number, personal financial information, and your birth date (identity thieves are notorious for using birth dates as the foundation of their activities).[1]

  1. Use a Shared Logon Service

Sites like bugmenot.com offer free, anonymous logon services.  Simply enter a website name and they will provide you with a logon and password that can be used on that website.  Although you can’t use the site to logon to Amazon and charge a few things anonymously, there are many sites that you can visit without providing any personal information.

Lastly, it’s always a great idea to Google your name periodically and see what information is publicly available about you.  This gives you a good place to start when you’re looking to minimize your digital footprint.

5 Suggestions for Preventing Security Breaches

Following the recent Target data hack, now is a good time to evaluate your business’ data security.  For instance, there are some troubling statistics on how data breaches affect small businesses.  Did you know that 71% of security breaches target small businesses?[1]  And unfortunately, 70% of small firms that experience a data breach go out of business within one year.[2]  Most small business owners don’t take the threat of data security breaches seriously.  However, Lynn LaGram, assistant vice president of small commercial underwriting at The Hartford, says, “As cybercriminals set their sights on smaller firms, it is important for business owners to take proactive measures to protect data and minimize the likelihood of a breach.”[3]  Some suggestions:

Encrypt Data.  According to a recent study, 60% of businesses that had security breaches didn’t encrypt their data.[4]  Make sure your data is encrypted but don’t rely on that alone.  Although encryption is useful, it isn’t fail-proof. 

Hire a Pro.  An objective third-party security firm can provide you with an unbiased take on where the risks lie and what data security measures you need to follow.

Ask Only for What You Need.  Don’t collect information from consumers that you don’t require.  And reduce the number of places where your data is stored.  While you’ll always want to have a backup, you don’t want to increase risk by storing additional copies that aren’t necessary.[5]

Don’t Forget Your Employees.  While less common, data breaches also occur internally by employees, either accidentally or deliberately.  For this reason, employees should be on a need-to-know basis.  If they don’t require access to confidential information, it should be restricted.  Additionally, it’s a good idea to offer security training and to evaluate how employees are logging in remotely. [6]   

Screen Your Vendors.  Make sure that your vendors use best practices for managing confidential data.  Vendors who have access to your customer base’s confidential information should have systems and policies in place to avoid breaches.  If a vendor has a security breach, your customers will still hold your business accountable.  This is what happened to Target which, “found that hackers stole credentials from a vendor to access [its] systems and pilfer about 40 million debit and credit card numbers…”[7]

4 Tips for Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

In light of Target’s recent disclosure that debit and credit card information from 40 million users was stolen this holiday season,[1] now seemed like an appropriate time to discuss how to protect yourself from identity theft.  While unfortunately, you can’t vet all retailers to find out how likely your personal information is to be hacked, you can take steps to minimize the likelihood of identity theft.  Our tips:

  1. Be Alert to Phishing

Phishing occurs when an illegitimate website mimics a real one, trying to obtain personal information.[2]  Spam or ad pop-ups are often used in phishing scams.  Before entering any information of a confidential nature, make sure you’re on a familiar website with security in place (look for the https, indicating your data is encrypted).

  1. Manage Your Passwords

It can’t be said often enough—a strong password contains a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters mixed with numbers.  Passwords should be site-specific, meaning they are unique on each site you visit.  And if you use a public computer to access the Internet, make sure that you log out of any website that you visit and clear your cookies.

  1. Guard Against Theft

Laptops, cell phones, and tablets are prime targets for thieves.  Make sure that you secure them appropriately and use a strong password on these items as well.

  1. Monitor Your Banking and Credit Card Transactions

Scan your banking and credit card statements for any suspicious activity.  While you can wait for a paper statement, it’s also easy to log in to your account periodically and review your transactions online.  Obviously, the more frequently that you’re checking these items, the less damage is likely to occur.

While we hope that you’re never a victim of identity theft, fortunately your liability is limited.  Your maximum liability for credit card theft is $50.  The same applies for your debit card if you report the theft within 2 days of your card being stolen.  With this in mind, it’s important to be proactive to prevent identity theft but if the worst occurs, know that your financial loss will be relatively small.

How Secure Is Your Data?

Hardly a week goes by without another chilling story about a data security breach.  Consider the case of Alere Home Monitoring, a health organization that compromised the personal information of 100,000+ patients when a laptop was stolen from an employee’s vehicle.  Information on the laptop contained the unencrypted names, Social Security numbers, addresses, and diagnoses of Alere patients.[1]  Or, take the state of California where data breaches affected over 2.5 million residents in 2012.[2]  Unfortunately, these breaches—and others—lead to a host of problems.  They open the door to identity theft, class action lawsuits, and expensive resolutions.

With the average cost of a compromised record in the Unites States running at $159 per record, it’s easy to see how negligence or poor data security standards can create costly mistakes.[3]  Interestingly enough, most breaches (35%) are caused by the loss of employees’ laptops or other mobile devices.[4]  System glitches, as well, are another leading cause of data security crises, comprising 29% of breaches.[5]   

What can you do to better protect your sensitive data?  Be proactive.  Consider that taking action before a breach is critical for your organization, regardless of size.  So, a few tips to keep in mind:

Develop A Strategy – Don’t leave things to chance.  Evaluate your organization’s strategy for protecting data.  Do employees often take laptops home?  How secure is confidential information? 

Encrypt – All confidential information should be encrypted and passwords should be difficult-to-guess.  Encryption coupled with good password standards will prevent hackers from being able to access your most sensitive data.

Communicate with Employees – Make sure that all employees are on the same page about data security.  Let them know the risks of emailing confidential information, leaving laptops in vehicles overnight, etc.  Encourage employees to inform their superiors immediately if they believe data has been compromised.

Consider Remote Wiping – There are tools that can render a lost or stolen laptop useless.  If all else fails, this might be something your company wants to consider.

In short, you want to clearly have a data loss plan in place rather than wait for disaster to strike.  Over the long run, it can save your organization time, money, and a PR nightmare.

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