October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month or NCSAM. During NCSAM, cybersecurity professionals share their insight with laypeople in addition to business. This insight helps them learn more about cybersecurity and how to implement measures to keep themselves and those they love secure.
While I would like to see every month dedicated to cybersecurity awareness, having a month is a step in the right direction. The goal is to help to educate those who are not exposed to security often. Taking the opportunity to educate the elderly and the younger generation during the month will pay dividends in adding to more secure society.
This year’s theme is Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.
Given the theme and how technology has evolved, let’s take a look at some measures to implement to help improve your overall security in addition to those you love.
Securing Our Digital Profile
Starting with Own IT, we must understand our digital profile. Our digital profile is a complex and multi-faceted thing to analyze. We have the technologies we use for work, but we also have the technologies that we use at home and then the overlap of the two.
Thirty years ago, we didn’t walk around with a fully functional computer in our pocket. We weren’t connected 24/7. We didn’t feel the need to convey our every move and meal with our friends all the time. Sure, people may have talked about these things, but typically in person or on the phone. In those days, you had to pay to call someone outside your general geographic area, so calls were either brief or expensive.
Given the nature of our society now, we need to look at what we tell people, friendly and hostile, about ourselves. This connected nature can occasionally be beneficial, but in large, it is neutral to harmful. As I have discussed in previous articles, posting about your vacation, or going live at your vacation resort is not a good practice. It lets potential thieves, whether physical thieves or identity thieves, know you are not home. These posts can be used to build rapport with you so that you can be influenced or manipulated into something that doesn’t have your best interests in mind.
While the most prudent advice is to avoid posting anything altogether, that is not entirely practical. It is very impractical if you have children and your parents or other close loved ones live far away. Nevertheless, consider implementing access controls. While access controls sound like a significant scary process, it is not. Access controls in this context are merely minimizing who can see what you post. Twitter and Instagram, for example, are inherently public unless you alter your profile settings.
For Facebook, you can post publicly, friends of friends, friends, groups, custom or only me. If you want to share data, I recommend setting up relevant groups. Create a group for trusted friends and family. If you are a veteran or alumni of an organization, create a group for your connections from that establishment. In doing so, you can make sure they only see what you want them to see, thus improving your privacy and the quality of their timeline.
Maintaining Privacy While Using Pictures
Another consideration is profile pictures. Profile pictures are public by design. While you may choose to use your most recent headshot or family photo, consider what it is telling those who see it. Was the picture taken in your home? Could someone seeking to harm you find out anything from the photo or a reverse image search? I recommend avoiding posting public images of your children, especially if they are very young.
We are unsure of what technology will look like in 20 to 30 years. Posting those pictures now takes away some of the agency of those in the photos. You have their best interests in mind, but consider who else may be watching. Despite the questions and guidance of social media sites, aside from Terms of Service, nothing is mandating that you enter entirely factual information or an actual picture of yourself. Keep this in mind
From the same vein in social media, think of the quizzes people post. While they seem innocuous at the surface, many ask questions that could be used to compromise your accounts, both directly and indirectly. Your responses could be used to identify your inner circle, build rapport about your past or reset your password.
On the topic of social media and children, consider those birth announcements with lax access controls. If the internet of years to come is anything like we know it today, criminals and malicious actors will have no issues searching for those posts from today to reset our children’s passwords tomorrow.
In conclusion, social media can be a fulfilling a safe environment that enriches our lives, if proper precessions are taken. Failure to utilize access controls or posting without prior consideration sets us and our future up for failure.