Saturday, July 31, 2010

Nothing Personal

On reviewing a few reports on the state of Internet Security, lately I have observed a pattern nobody seems to want to talk about. Perhaps the overuses of such issue and the constant reminders about it have become common and invisible signs for our IT-avert and strained eyes.

Here we go again: most security breaches both at home and at the workplace happen due mainly to human error.

Although I am also tired of repeating the same long list of safe actions on visiting Websites, opening email attachments, replying to certain messages and all that jazz; this time I would like to focus on something that should concern you: your personal information. Even better, these are only a few tips to protect your financial information.

1. Financial institutions will never contact you via email asking for your personal information, they already have it when you signed up the contract. Do not provide anything personal to messages that look legitimate; but are not.

2. Whether you receive electronic or printed statements for your credit cards and banking accounts, peruse them carefully every month, and clarify charges you don’t identify as soon as you review your statement.

3. Change passwords every few months, at least make an effort to change them every six months or annually. Select easy to remember passwords for you, but that are complex and difficult to guess for everybody else; a longer than 7 characters combination of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters is best. Dare I suggest you base them on your name, the institution, a date and even perhaps a sequential number in a way that only you know? For example, I would set something like this for Uberbanken Bank: user name “hector_curiel” password “HC1999UberBank01”.

4. The same way you shred confidential paper based documents and expired credit cards, make sure no personal information is being given away when you dispose of external Hard Drives, USB flash drives, and obviously computers. Make sure the contents of such devices are erased and if at all possible, destroy the Hard Drives.

5. When connecting wirelessly to the Internet, make sure the signal you are using is encrypted. If not possible, at least make an effort not to transmit any confidential information in the form of email –or similar- messages; also avoid on-line banking when this is the case.

As you can see, all it really requires is a little bit of common sense. If you start educating yourself on best practices at work, at home, and when using public facilities; the virtual world will become a safer place for us all.
A simple search on the internet for what you want to know, and depending on your Internet literacy and needs, will take you to places such as these:

Enjoy and use the Web appropriately and you’ll help us all, starting with yourself.
Nothing Personal.

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