Want data privacy…get off the computer

The EFF (Electronic Freedom Foundation), governmental agencies and privacy groups around the globe are up in arms about the Meta data Google is grabbing from people’s searches. They’re “a little uptight” on how that personal information might be used.

Is it a potential problem? Sure.

Is it the problem? No.

The problem is you went digital.

You opened yourself to every product, service, well-meaning/creative individual/organization and every whacko/evil-doer on the planet.

Added Online Service

MS, Amazon, eBay, Google, Apple and others need your information. The good guys want to sell you something. The others have bigger plans for your data.

Welcome to the wild ‘n wooly world of “1s” and “0s.”

Microsoft for years has kept track of their property by inserting your tracking information.

Bill’s close personal friend at Apple broke down the entertainment barriers with no DRM (Digital Rights Management) iTunes.

Your embedded customer information comes free with every download purchases.

Protection Agencies

Ok so maybe Homeland Security (the folks who protect you from “them”) did lose a hard drive with 100,000 plus employee records on it.

Maybe the FBI does lose 2,000 + notebooks with really cool information on them.

Maybe your bank or loan company lost “a few thousand files.”

They may have lost it…but it’s up to you to protect yourself from having a bad day.

Evil Doers

Then there are the hackers, phishers of men, Trojan horse producers who have turned pro to help themselves to your information.

Of course the kids at Doom9 and similar hangouts are good but they only do it for the challenge…for bragging rights.

Phishers and digital hijackers do it for profit.

Yeah…you just won the Irish lottery…a thoughtful lawyer in London is going to help you get $1 million from some dude’s bank into your bank for a small fee…some folks want to send you a free 50-in plasma screen…the bank (or gawd forbid eBay) just notified you that your account is being suspended unless you check your records.

P.T. Barnum was right…“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

And phishing is big business.

Sure you can delete but you’re still a long way from data safe.

Businesses lose data every day of the week.

So do individuals. Usually they never know it. Until it’s … too late!

Your Stuff

Look at your home system. You’ve got data, images, content (legal and grey) whipping around the house all the time.

Putting a lead shield around the home network doesn’t do any good because you constantly reach out for…something.

While tellywood swears we’re all reaching out for their valuable stuff, the fact is – at least in our household – it is stuff that is disarmingly free or something we already own. The kids load their drives with everything they can find.

They create a ton of their own.

They load it on their MP3 players (audio, video) to take with them and to share.

They throw it on their cellphones (which also holds a lot of personal data) and zap it to anyone who even looks like they are interested.

They love the control. It’s second nature. They not only want it…they expect it!

Who can blame them?

But is their content protected?

Digitally Comfortable

Good enough for most people who have grown up in the digital world.

They are comfortable with the opportunities and risks.

On a recent holiday, we sat in the airport with our son and he effortlessly got his system connected to the WiFi net.

Then he started searching.

In 30 minutes he had tapped into the hard drives of three notebooks that were also online in the airport.

The data? There for the taking.

And he wonders why we aren’t really excited about online banking!

Using our cellphone as a digital wallet is “logical”…to him!

All of that information is immediately available to be stolen the minute you let your guard down.

Our digitally-active family is probably well on its way to surpassing most industry projections for home storage in 2010 by… oh heck late next year!

Since there’s no going back to music platters, VHS tapes or reams of paper, we’ve developed what we’d call a normal level of concern over our identity/data security.

We don’t buy online without thoroughly researching the outlet.

We make certain we don’t throw open the back door of our system and network to every person cruising the iNet looking for good stuff, good information they can “borrow.”

Next to healthy growth in storage; reasonable security products, applications will be more important than the next iTunes, YouTube or MySpace downloads.

There’s not much you can do about your personal information that already exists on the iNet. Finding and eliminating it isn’t a job…it’s a career.

But…there’s no sense adding to the information outlay.

Paranoid Comfort

Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, was fond of saying, “Only the paranoid survive.” We have what we’d call a healthy paranoia regarding our data – personal and professional.

We’ve got:

• a good firewall on our network and system

• a couple of honest passwords…not “password,” 1-2-3-4-5, first name or last name, address, phone number or guessable items like these

• healthy protection software that checks for phishing, viruses, system/network attacks

• a good dose of common sense on what emails we open, attachments we open and websites we visit

On our system(s) we use some business level security functions that security professionals have found to be good as long as the individual connected to the keyboard uses them.

That’s where we “always” get in trouble!

The Answers Are Out There

Fortunately there is a huge crowd of experts out there ready and more than willing to tell you what you should do to protect your data and personal information.

Buy stuff online isn’t a real issue as long as they have a secure payment location. But people are more cautious.

It is more secure than calling a service center (somewhere on the globe) and giving them the information.

Don’t even talk about placing the order on your cellphone!

Our techno-savvy son also helped us add protection:

He showed us you can lock the browser status bar and “https” in the address bar to ensure we’re got a secure connection

• Firefox 2 – our browser of choice — has built-in detection of fraudulent sites

• Our security suite is set up to prevent private data from being sent by blocking transmission or replacing the data

• We secure our systems when the actual owner (or parent) isn’t using it

Since common sense seems to lapse and disconnecting your computer from the world is out of the question, there is good identity and security software you can find to keep your private data private.

If you’re not anxious to rush onto the web unexposed to find products to help, there’s always:

• MS great security packages

• Symantec

• Homeland security

• Your government officials

You know…the Big Dogs!

None of them will work 100 per cent.

As Germaine Greer noted, “Security is when everything is settled. When nothing can happen to you.”

Sneaky and bad guys always stay ahead of the protection tools you buy.

The best computer security solution is still common sense.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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