Protecting Security (and Reputation) in a Tech-Heavy Culture

Unbeknownst to many, National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) is upon us. What does this mean for the average online user? It’s likely time to evaluate the ways that you go about using the Web and social media, as well as the information that you share through all of your online behaviors. We’ve come to acknowledge the general rule of thumb that “once you put information out there, it’s out there forever.” But when we’re going about our daily online lives, are we really taking the precautions necessary to protect ourselves and our identities?

Organizations like the National Cyber Security Alliance are leading the charge this month to broaden awareness about the right precautions that both individuals and organizations need to take in order to keep their information secure in our global culture of TMI (aka “too much information,” or over-sharing).

The threats to personal security in the digital arena are almost endless and often interrelated, from identity theft to hacking to phishing to cyberbullying and more. Even more, the reputational risks of sharing information are not few. For instance, it’s common practice for employers to look up online information about job candidates that they consider for open positions. Writing from the perspective of a professional who often sits on the interviewer’s side of the table, it’s amazingly easy to piece together a picture of someone’s interests and general behavior from a few simple searches. Imagine the information that’s accessible to those (e.g., phishing artists, cybercriminals, etc.) who dedicate their lives to finding miniscule bits of information (e.g., credit card numbers, online spending habits, etc.) of people just for personal gain.

Taking simple steps like reevaluating whether you should share your location online, thinking through if you really need to have your phone number on your Facebook profile or setting up a reminder to switch your passwords every few months can go a long way toward enriching your personal cybersecurity.

The risks in the digital world remain very real for businesses and other organizations as well. In addition to architecting very complex security protocols to protect valuable data and intellectual property, organizations also owe a significant responsibility to their customers to protect the data that’s used to facilitate online transactions or optimize the business processes that help these organization’s achieve their mission (whether that be commerce-, public service- or cause-based).

The Alliance, helmed by a variety of tech industry pros, provides a vast set of resources and events this month to elevate national awareness of the threats to cybersecurity and the steps that individuals and organizations can take to protect themselves in more effective ways. Among the most prominent resources is the Stop. Think. Connect. campaign, which receives support from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Regardless of the priorities that guide our digital behaviors, from ordering a new DVD box set online (I refuse to make a blatant reference to an iconic series that ran its course with a finale just this week) to protecting the intellectual property of a Fortune 500 company, we could all likely benefit from taking a step back to ask ourselves the simple question:  am I doing all I can to ensure my digital information is secure?

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