How to keep personal information secure online
Stay safe, stay protected
By David A. Milman | Computerworld US | Published: 16:59, 23 August 2010
Matthew Danzico of BBC News Washington, recently wrote about the website CultofLess.com, one man's attempt to sell off virtually everything he owns and live, primarily, off technology. To some that might sound crazy. But stop for a moment and consider - how much of your life has already been digitised?
A few simple facts:
- According to Online Banking Report, 44 million households now pay at least some bills online.
- Also according to OBR, that number should jump by almost 30%, to 56 million, within the next two years.
- The National Health Interview Survey reports that 25% of American households now only use cell phones. Almost 15% still have a landline, but don't use it.
- A Harris Interactive survey concluded that adults spend an average of 13 hours per week online. Neilsen reports that almost 23% of that time - a staggering 906 million hours - is spent on social networks or blogs.
The digitisation of our world is now something we expect, understand, and even demand. Who hasn't decided to order dinner out and been upset when a restaurant doesn't have an online menu?
For many of us, our family photos, financial records, contact lists, videos, music, and books are all stored, shared, or watched online. However, for all its ease, convenience, and speed, the digital part of our life is not without its dangers.
For people like CultofLess founder Kelly Sutton, a hard drive crash, a lost flash drive, or a server crash could be catastrophic. Those who still cling to paper records and documents, always have a backup. Most people will never go as far as Sutton. But, with so much of our lives already tied up in gigabytes, RAM and servers, what can be done to protect our digital lives?
- Backup - Backing up is a common computer support suggestion. Backing up your digital files to a USB, external hard drive, or offsite data center is a great idea. But you can find even more security in keeping hard copies - on paper - of your essential documents.
- Be Protected - With so much of our lives online and digitised, it's vital that we always think of our computers, websites and other digital ‘homes' as exactly that - homes. We don't leave our physical homes unprotected, and the same should be true for the digital ones. Internet security software to guard against malware, spyware, and viruses, is important as a smoke detector or an alarm system in your house.
- Keep your own records - Banks, brokers, and other institutions face the same online dangers as you - a server crash, a virus, or a security breach can wipe out data. Keep your own records, either by printing out information from an institution's website, or by recording things on your own.
- Be redundant - Never trust any one digital or online source to preserve everything. Make multiple copies in multiple locations. Use several different online storage sites for your photos, for example. Then keep hard copies in an album, just to be sure.
- Be prepared - If you do face a data crisis, be prepared. Know what's on all of your devices, including file types, names, and how important each bit of information is. This will help prioritise your data recovery needs, and might help save your most important data.
The digital world is making inroads every day, most of them welcome. But now that we're facing an increasingly online existence, it's vital to know all the ways you can make sure that digital world works for and not against you.