The Implications of Sharing Personal Data

By | January 28th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Data Privacy DayDid you know that privacy policies do not guarantee that your information will be kept private? Most companies use privacy policies to inform customers about how their personal information may be used, i.e. sold, shared, exchanged, not necessarily guaranteeing absolute confidentiality. In today’s increasingly digital world where exchanging personal information – your name, email address, home address, etc. – for access to websites, coupons and the like has become the norm. And, it can be difficult for consumers to understand the value of their personal information.

Today is the eighth annual Data Privacy Day, an international awareness effort spearheaded by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) that encourages all Internet users to consider the privacy implications of their online actions and motivate all companies to make privacy and data protection a greater priority. Since most consumers aren’t fully aware of the implications of sharing personal information, we’re taking a deeper look at what can happen when personal information is shared online.

Companies that collect don’t always protect
When you share personal information with a company online, that company is responsible for protecting your information. Even data that is seemingly harmless is extremely valuable to cyber criminals, like your email address or your mother’s maiden name for a password reset. When you share this valuable, personal information with a company online be sure to read the company’s privacy policy fine print in order to be certain that your information is not being shared publicly or with outside companies. In some instances, even reading the company’s fine print cannot keep your information safe. Millions were affected last year due to retail and medical data breaches, proving it difficult for companies to protect your data no matter how secure it may seem. Once cyber criminals have their hands on your personal information, you may be surprised at what they can do with it.

Cyber criminals patch together your digital profile
Bits and pieces of personal information stolen from companies can help cyber criminals patch together a complete picture of your digital identity. They can then use your digital identity to access more important information like your financial records from retail sites that have your credit card information stored. Many consumers leave a trail of personal information on the Internet, leading cyber criminals to steal your identity and your financial information.

How to make a difference during Data Privacy Day
Here are some tips on how you can increase your privacy online from the NCSA:

  • Think of your personal information like money – value it and protect it. You are often paying for “free” services with your personal information. Before you willingly provide your information to a service, make sure it is a business you trust to handle your information with care.
  • Manage your browser cookies to maximize your privacy and prevent unwanted tracking.
  • Demand that businesses be honest about how they collect, use and share personal information.
  • Be cautious about who you “friend” and communicate with online.

Join the Data Privacy Day conversations online by using the hashtag #DPD15! And, let us know what you think on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Safeguarding Students’ Personal Data In WiFi-Friendly Schools

By | August 25th, 2014|Uncategorized|

backtoschool_082214This guest blog post is a part of our cyberSAFE blog series focusing on back-to-school security, privacy and identity topics. It comes from Alok Kapur, Chief Marketing & Customer Officer at PRIVATE WiFi, a personal VPN product that protects individuals while using laptops and other mobile devices on wireless Internet connections. An expert in the mobile security space, you can connect with him on Twitter and read his recent articles on PRIVATE WiFi’s Official Blog.

The Federal Communications Commission will spend $2 billion to give wireless access to 10 million kids, but are we short-changing our students’ collective cyber-safety rights?

After all, having students on open WiFi networks at school means that data is susceptible to attacks. And what happens to a teacher’s productivity if one student brings a virus from home onto the school’s wireless network? Has the FCC put a plan in place to encrypt student data and class assignments? Perhaps most worrisome is that WPA2 encryption is the only solution that is really viable right now, since nearly all the other standards can be broken into – but is the FCC explaining this or simply doling out the cash without further security advice?

Another worrisome issue is that the natural progression to the FCC’s funding will be the rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies for students. But unless students are encrypting their data with a VPN like PRIVATE WiFi, updating antivirus software, and using a firewall, BYOD trends are as risky as leaving their assigned lockers wide open – anyone can see their sensitive, personal details. No student would ever agree to openly reveal their online data, after all, but few students probably understand the privacy risks of WiFi.

And according to an Education Week article, the fallout from childhood identity theft might not be known for years. That’s cause for concern given the volume and scope of accidental data breaches in K-12 systems.

Indeed, the same article cites one case among many involving a school contractor who accidentally exposed the names, addresses, dates of birth, and full Social Security numbers of more than 18,000 Nashville Public Schools students; the sensitive information was available online for more than two months.

To avoid data security conflicts, wouldn’t it be better for school districts to maintain student wireless networks that are separate from teacher/administrator networks? If those involved in higher education (many of whom hold advanced degrees) can’t safeguard students’ most sensitive information, how can children in BYOD and WiFi-friendly school environments possibly stand a chance of protecting themselves? Let us know what you think on Twitter and Facebook, and be sure to check out our Tumblr for the latest industry news stories.

Top 5 Tips to Keep You – and Your Belongings – Safe While Traveling

By | June 26th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Passport_062614Summer is here and that means it’s travel season. What most people don’t think about when planning their vacation is how to keep their identity, PII and financial information secure while they’re away. Cyber criminals and identity thieves are opportunistic and will be on the lookout this summer to strike while the iron is hot. Make sure to protect your personal assets by considering these five security tips while vacationing this summer:

Be wary of travel sites and deals. When you’re planning a trip, be extra cautious of how and where you book your hotel and flights. Watch out for email phishing scams in your inbox with enticing flight deals and malvertisements, online advertisements that are malicious once you click on them, for exotic travel accommodations. Use trusted, well-established websites to book your travel.

Leave PII documents at home. If you’re traveling abroad, bring your passport and driver’s license. The extra documentation, like your social security card and birth certificate, should remain at home to avoid loss or theft. The less information you have with you, the less likely you are to forget it in a hotel room, on a flight or in another insecure area.

Never hook up to free Wi-Fi. With man-in-the-middle attacks becoming more and more common, there’s never a good reason to connect to free Wi-Fi in a café, airport or elsewhere. Turn off the auto-connect to Wi-Fi feature on your mobile device so your device does not link up to an insecure network without you knowing. A great alternative is to use a free VPN app, like TunnelBear, to connect to a secure network.

Do not access personal websites in a public setting. Cyber criminals can use technology to track your keystrokes and steal your password information. When you’re in public, avoid visiting websites that host sensitive information and that require a personal login.

Post pictures to social sites after your vacation. While it can be tempting to brag about your vacation on social media sites while it is happening, wait until you get home. Criminals may be on the lookout for vacation photos or other social media posts to confirm when a person is not at home. They then can take advantage of this information to break into your home, as the theft may go unnoticed while you are away.

Do you have any steadfast security rules you follow before heading out on vacation? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn!

News Recap: Senate Report Aims to Stop Malvertisements

By | May 29th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Ads blogEarlier this month, the United States Senate published Online Advertising And Hidden Hazards to Consumer and Data Privacy, a report that analyzes and investigates the distribution of malware through online ads.

AdWeek’s Katy Bachman shared insights from the report, citing that “in some instances, clicking the play button would initiate a pre-roll ad on YouTube or Yahoo that could deliver malware to consumers’ computers… Sites that consumers would expect to be safe, including The New York Times, Major League Baseball and the San Francisco Chronicle, were found to host ads with malware, many delivered by third-party ad networks.”

The complexity of online advertising makes it difficult to identify who is responsible.

“An ordinary online advertisement typically goes through five or six intermediaries before being delivered to a user’s browser, and the ad networks themselves rarely deliver the actual advertisement from their own servers,” cites the Senate report. “In most cases, the owners of the host website visited by a user do not know what advertisements will be shown on their site.”

This presents a privacy problem for users, Lucian Constantin explains in PCWorld. According to Constantin, “in most cases users can’t control what data is being collected, who collects it and how it’s used.” Constantin pulled an example from the Senate report during which one visit to a tabloid news website sparked interactions with 352 web servers, “many of those interactions were benign; some of those third-parties, however, may have been using cookies or other technology to compile data on the consumer. The sheer volume of such activity makes it difficult for even the most vigilant consumer to control the data being collected or protect against its malicious use.”

Should websites be held responsible for the advertising content hosted on their site? How can consumers protect themselves from malvertisements? Let us know what you think on Twitter and Facebook, and be sure to check out our Tumblr for the latest industry news stories.

Privacy Awareness Week: What are you doing to protect your privacy?

By | May 7th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Technology is Changing_APPAMay 4 through May 10 is Privacy Awareness Week (PAW), an initiative of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) held every year to promote awareness of privacy issues and the importance of the protection of personal information. To commemorate this week, we would like to share a few of our favorite privacy resources.

To highlight the importance of personal privacy, APPA recently released an infographic on the topic. The infographic shows how technology has changed over the years and the privacy risks across the Asia Pacific Region. APPA also provides an online test that looks at identity theft situations to see how aware you are about identity theft risks. The overall assessment shows how exposed you are to identity theft and offers tips along the way.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) teamed up with APPA this week to talk about why privacy matters, and offers tips, for both individuals and businesses, on how to protect your personal information in today’s digital world. The FTC’s Privacy and Identity topic page offers privacy and identity topics on how to: limit unwanted calls and emails, protect your computer, talk to kids about online safety, protect your identity and repair identity theft.

Earlier this year, we celebrated Data Privacy Day, an international effort hosted by to help educate people on the importance of protecting their privacy and controlling their digital footprint. We nod our heads in agreement with their privacy tips to stay secure online:

  • Secure your devices. Set passcodes or pass phrases to be sure only you can access your smartphone, tablet or PC.
  • Secure your accounts. In addition to passwords, enable two-factor authentication to add another layer of security.
  • Make passwords long, strong and unique. Passwords should be different for each account, have as many characters as allowed and include numbers, symbols and letters, capital and lowercase.
  • Think before you app. Before downloading a mobile app, understand what information the app accesses to function, including location.
  • Back it up. Store digital copies of your valuable work, music, photos and other information on an external hard drive or online cloud.

What are you doing to protect your privacy on a day to day basis? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook, and be sure to check out our Tumblr for the latest industry news stories.

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