It's Midnight - Do You Know Where Your Data is?

Courtesy of  Pixabay

Data Protection in the 21st Century


By Hector Cisneros

Ok, so it’s midnight, and hopefully, you're asleep, and all your data is safe and sound all over the internet, right? What, my data is all over the internet? How can I protect my data if it’s not in my control? Can I really back up data that’s out on the web? Is my security strong enough to stop hackers? Does my service provider have top notch security? Can I restore any lost or stolen data? If you’re asking these kinds of questions, you're wondering if living in the cloud is safe after all. So, why have a backup at all if the cloud isn’t safe? I have three words for you -  Data Breach, Ransomware, and ID Thief! Ok, so that's five words! But the fact remains, most internet users have more vulnerabilities today than ever before! So, if you want to find out how to better protect yourself and any company data that’s in the cloud, tune in and turn on to this week’s episode of Working the Web to Win where we will explore “How to Protect Your Data in the 21st Century.”

The first thing you must understand is that your information (including financial and ID information) is already on the cloud. It is dispersed amongst the Government entities, financial institutions, vendors and service providers you already use. These include your bank, your broker, The Affordable Care Act website, Social Security, any paid products you subscribe to, online shopping sites like eBay, Amazon and PayPal. Plus, all the free service providers, including email and social sites (like Google Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn and others). What that means is you’re at an increased risk of data and ID theft.

The funny thing is that these business sites are usually less vulnerable to attack than the average users' own digital devices. Having said that, the news is filled with stories of huge data breaches at Target, Home Depot, Yahoo, Government entities and more. This means we also need to make sure we have data security, data backup, and ID protection as well. We must be vigilant on three fronts to maintain maximum protection. We must protect our digital equipment, our data, and our identification.

What about security?

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It should go without saying that anyone who is using a digital device (computer, tablet, and smartphone) needs to purchase, use and maintain anti-malware protection on these devices at all times! I have written about this extensively in the past. In articles like The State of Internet Privacy & Security in America Today and The Crypto Crunch - Ransomware Run Amok, my business partner Carl and I have outlined how big this problem is along with a way to combat cyber-attacks and cover your digital assets. These articles and the ones listed on the notes page for this episode will give you vital information on various protection methods and products. They are well worth reading. It’s worth noting that data security and backup is a hot topic and frontier for many security companies. Most of the top anti-malware products now also come with some type of cloud backup included. You can also add extensive backup storage and capabilities for a premium. I only mention this because you will start to accumulate multiple backup systems if you’re not careful and this can cause a performance hit on your computer.

Now I want you to look at the security of your data not housed on your digital devices. Have you ever backed up your data on Facebook, Gmail, LinkedIn, Blogger or other social sites? Do you download PDF versions of all your financial statements? Do you use encryption software on any of your digital devices? How do you protect your other smart devices like TV’s, Personal AI Assistant’s like ECHO, and smart house devices? Do you have a strong router firewall setup at your business and home? Do you know how to backup any of this data automatically in a way that Ransomware can’t get at it? The rest of this article will delve into the many options you have to protect your digital life.

What about encryption?

Courtesy of  Wikipedia
The best way to protect your digital life is to limit your exposure and to monitor the use of your IDs and transactions. Let’s look at limiting your exposure. First and foremost, all digital devices and any cloud service, need to be password protected. Your password needs to be a minimum of 8 characters (12 is much better) and should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, allowed symbols and numbers. Never use information that is easily accessible like birthdays, your kid’s names, etc.

Second, is your data encrypted? Many smartphones have the data encryption capabilities, (the iPhone for example). Law enforcement agencies refer to these two types of data encryption “data in motion,” (data being transmitted) and aka “data at rest,” (stored data). Many newer Android phones (with Lollipop5.x or higher) have this capability turned on by default as well. Some of the latest smartphones also have fingerprint access tied to the encryption as well. However, if you don’t have the password lock feature enabled, the encryption won’t matter.  My suggestion is if you feel you live and die by your smart devices, make sure they have password access activated along with data encryption enabled. If you do a search in iTunes or Google Play, you will find dozens of encryption apps for both communicating and storing data. Also, any many anti-malware programs offer encryption capabilities as well.  Here is a link to a New York Times article that discusses several.

What about Backup Options

Many smart devices now come with data backup built in. This is especially true of a smartphone. However, many people turn these automatic services off because they use bandwidth on their data plans. Make sure you have this turned on or that you at least perform regular backups manually. Also, as mentioned earlier, many of the newer anti-malware products now come with added cloud backup services. If you’re not using these services as an extra means of protection, you’re a disaster waiting to happen. Today, it’s not a matter of if you will be hacked, it’s when.  So, having a credible backup that you can restore is important to have. The problem with many types of backup systems is that they are not always set up properly, and they rarely get tested. Make sure you get help setting yours up if you’re not the technical type. Also, purchase a secondary USB hard drive that you can restore to as a test bed. These hard drives are inexpensive and can also serve as backup devices as well.

Hardware, Hardware Everywhere!

Courtesy of  Wikipedia
Today your hardware options cover the gamut from USB thumb drives to various memory cards to conventional and solid state hard drives. Prices vary greatly, but the entry level cost is way under $100. A good article to look at is a PC mag review of backup hardware. If you’re wondering if the cloud is better than a local solution, my answer is that it depends on the reliability of your internet access. Cloud storage is generally more secure (knowing this, I keep redundant backup cloud services), but if you live in an area prone to disasters (like the Gulf Coast, California Coast, Florida, etc.), you might want to have both. Also, since terrorists have been trying to figure out how to knock out our communications infrastructure, you might want to have a local backup system just in case.

Is Your Cloud Lined with Silver?

There are lots of cost-effective cloud options, including Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft Cloud that all have free entry level and premium options.  Other products like idrive, Carbonite and QuickBooks backup systems have good reputations. However, with the onslaught of ransomware hacks, it has become important to make sure any cloud backup system allows for generational backups, where multiple revisions of your data can be kept. This allows you to roll your data back to an earlier date before you were hacked by a ransom cyber-pirate. PC Magazine and Computer World both had excellent articles showing the features, benefits and ratings for various cloud backup and storage systems. If you're looking for a cloud system for your business, also check out “Best Cloud Backup for Business” on tom’s IT PRO online magazine.

So how do you back up your social nets and cloud-based photos? A good practice, to begin with, is to keep a copy of what you post organized on your main computer system. It is not a practical solution for every post, but it can work for photos, blogs, and videos.

 

When it comes to social media, each of the social nets has a different method for backing up your data. You can find this information in most of the individual social net support databases by typing in the search box “how do I backup my data.” However, if you have a lot of social networks, this can be a time-consuming proposition.

 

Courtesy of  YouTube

Social Net Backup Software to the Rescue.

 

Online applications like SocialSafe can automate social media backup. This one application can back up your Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter all from one menu. It is available for Windows and IOS PC’s and is completely free for the first 60 days with no credit card required. This makes your content instantly available on your computer if you had to restore because of a disaster. Plus, it's only $6.99 per year!


Other precautions I recommend, are to make sure all your government and financial institution settings are set to maximum security with long passwords. Also, make sure you set alert limits on all financial transactions and have the backup email address and phone numbers set up in case of a system breach. My last recommendation is that you read these three articles. The first is Are You Prepared for the Onslaught of Cyber-Attacks?. The second is The Crypto Crunch - Ransomware Run Amok and the third is The State of Internet Privacy & Security in America Today. These three articles will provide you a wealth of information, tips, and links to other articles that will give you a head start on protecting your data in the 21st century.

That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

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In this article, I have discussed the current state of data protection in the USA today. I have included information on securing your digital world, backing up your digital data, your cloud-based data files and the data files stored on your social nets, blogs, videos and photo sites. I have also included several links to other articles that provide further detail on the applications and hardware discussed.

If you’d like to read more articles like this, enter the term “Cyber Security” in the search box at the top of this blog.

If you feel your business could use some marketing help, contact us at 904-410-2091, and we will provide a free marketing analysis to help, you get better results. If you found this article useful, please share it with friends, family, coworkers and associates.  If you have something to add related to this article or have a different opinion, place them in the Comments section below. 

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Hector Cisneros is a partner, COO and Social Media Director for the award-winning, Internet-based marketing firm, Working the Web to Win, in Jacksonville, FL. You can connect with him on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. He’s also the co-host of BlogTalkRadio’s “Working the Web to Win,” where he Carl Weiss, make working the web to win simple for every business. He's a published author of two books, "60 Seconds to Success"(available at Amazon and B&N), and "Internet Marketing for the 21st Century," which you can get by filling out the form above.  He’s also the co-author of the book, “Working the Web to Win,” which is now available on Amazon.com.

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2 comments:

  1. If you don't backup your data you are playing with fire. It isn't a matter of IF yuo are going to be hacked, it's a matter of WHEN.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You can't be too careful, can you? Thanks for the information.

    ReplyDelete