Data Privacy Day: Button Up Your Defenses
We’re fast approaching International Data Privacy Day: January 28. This event, hopefully, will spur businesses and individuals to think about just how safe their data is — and hopefully, take action to address any protection shortcomings.
Here in New England, it’s also an excellent time to assess our own data security. Regrettably, as the National Cyber Security Alliance points out, millions “are unaware of and uninformed about how their personal information is being used, collected or shared in our digital society.”
As this blog just recently noted, the risks of cyber/web crime are going up, with hackers and other similar criminals using ever-more powerful techniques and technologies against us. According to the “Boston Business Journal,” in 2019, the Bay State alone saw 605,000 of its residents have their private data exposed by breaches. That is up by roughly a third from 2018, when 443,000 Massachusetts citizens were affected.
Commercial and Private Data Dangers
As individuals, we face many risks caused by hackers or by our own revelations through social media platforms and the like. If our data is vulnerable anonymous identity thieves can victimize us easily. They can break into a less-than-diligent retail chain’s server to steal our credit card number and make purchases on our dime. This is bad enough.
However, some individuals and businesses also hold other people’s data — such as client or patient Social Security information or other identifiers. These organizations may also face legal repercussions for failing to take proactive action to protect all third-party data.
Massachusetts law dictates any data breach of third party data must be reported to state agencies, and to “any consumers whose data is at risk.” This can damage your professional reputation and lead to loss of income, among other negative results.
New England Data Disasters
Data might seem like an abstract issue, but it’s one that is very close to home, here in New England. Last summer, the neurology department at Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital suffered a data breach involving the records of 10,000 research study participants, says a “HealthLeaders” article.
The leak was traced to two applications, and info stolen included participants’ names, date of birth, medical record number, type of study, diagnosis and medical history, biomarkers and genetic information, the article claims.
But data breaches can be geographically remote from us, too. In 2018, the biggest breach of Massachusetts residents’ data came from the penetration of the San Francisco-based website, TaskRabbit, notes the “Boston Business Journal.” The breach of this handyman-for-hire website, affected 120,000 Bay Staters (incidentally, TaskRabbit originally launched in Boston).
Buttoning Up Our Data
Luckily, there are things we can do, both as business proprietors and citizen-consumers, to take back at least some control of our data. Here are a few suggestions from the National Cyber Security Alliance:
- Use this webpage to update privacy settings on popular devices/services
- Keep your security software current: this is a great defense against viruses and malware
- See a link you don’t trust? Delete it, whether it’s in a social media post, email, etc.
- Secure any device or machine that touches the internet: that includes cell phones, gaming appliances, tablets, and so on
We can’t predict every cyber threat, but on this data privacy day, taking some of these steps will ensure we have the best possible protection for our business/personal info — and that of any third party we are responsible for.
- Contact us today to learn more about protecting your business or home.
- Learn more about what home security means to us.
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