TRUCKEE, Calif. — The internet has never been a safe house with doors that lock every night.
With big companies like Equifax and Facebook circling the media with massive security breaches and misused data scandals, online users are faced with taking extra security measures to protect their personal information.
“You have to think about what kind of data you want out there,” said Laura Louthan, founder of Angel Cybersecurity.
During a presentation hosted by Tahoe Silicon Mountain, Louthan spoke to Truckee area business owners and community members about the risks of sharing your information online and how to best keep it safe.
She said birthdays, email addresses and baby pictures are examples of commonly shared information that we don’t often hesitate to give away.
“Once your data is out there, you can’t get it back,” she said.
According to Louthan, there is no guarantee personal data will be safe. However, there are steps internet users can take to lower the risk of privacy being breached.
Privacy concerns extend beyond single users. As a cybersecurity expert, Louthan says her job is to make sure businesses and organizations take measures to protect against criminal or unauthorized use.
“One of the biggest problems companies have is not knowing what data they have out there,” she said.
WHO HAS YOUR DATA?
Just last year, Equifax experienced one of the largest data breaches in history, affecting 147.9 million consumers, which amounts to about half the country. The credit reporting agency admitted they were aware of a security flaw in its system for two months before hackers first gained access to it.
In March it was reported that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting company, had misused data from 50 million Facebook users. The data included basic information such as a user’s occupation, their interests, and the city where they reside.
While it may be difficult to keep this information out of the wrong hands, once shared, Louthan suggests always staying aware of who exactly has it. Backing up your data on sites such as iDrive or Mozy, in case of a breach is just as important.
More serious data breaches may put an individual’s financial security at risk if a hacker has enough information to access a bank account.
Louthan emphasized the importance of strong, unique passwords, exclusive to every online account you may have. Some may even use a password managing system to generate passwords and store them in an encrypted database.
“If something you signed up for had their database compromised and that password also works for your bank — and trust me, they’re going to try — they’ll have access to your bank accounts,” she said.
Another way hackers may get access to personal information is through “phishing,” the practice of sending fraudulent emails claiming to be a reputable company in order to trick individuals into revealing personal information.
These emails could be tailored to look like they were sent from Amazon or a user’s bank suggesting that they need personal information or an account could be shut down.
“Always be extremely suspicious of anyone asking for you credit card or Social Security number unless you went to them first,” said Louthan. “The best thing to do is have good passwords, verify links, and back up your data.”