U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor N. Stinson
These days there seems to be a national observance for everything. We have National Cheese Day, National Ice Cream Day, even National Tug-of-War Tournament day. But today, everyone should pay attention to National Data Privacy Day, and make cybersecurity an everyday effort.
Data Privacy Day began in the United States and Canada in 2008 as an extension of the established Data Protection Day in Europe, which commemorated the signing of Convention 108, the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection. In 2014, the United States Congress adopted a resolution supporting January 28 as National Data Privacy Day.
Data theft and misuse are global issues. The goal of National Data Privacy Day is to educate consumers about the collection of personal information, as well as benefits and risks of sharing this information. Consumers should be empowered to express their expectations for the use, protection, and management of their personal data. Those of us who work in the cybersecurity world want to inspire you -- the consumer -- through simple and actionable tips for actively managing online data. We want to motivate you to consider the privacy implications of your online actions for yourselves and others. We want to encourage businesses to be data stewards by being open and honest about how they collect, use, and share personal information while clearly communicating any available privacy and security controls.
It’s critical for consumers to understand their rights and the importance of protecting personal information. Your personal information can be utilized to open consumer accounts for unscrupulous use. Have you ever thought about how many times you’ve given out your Social Security number without thinking about the consequences? Or why so many organizations say they need your social security number? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Social Security numbers are the most important piece of information a cybercriminal needs to commit identity theft. Yet many consumers don’t worry about handing over their most valuable identity asset until it’s too late. A stolen social security number allows a criminal to use your identity to apply for credit or a mortgage, use your health insurance, and even by a home or escape arrest, all in your name, using your information.
Even though they were never intended to be used as universal identifiers, Social Security numbers are the most commonly used record-keeping number in the United States. They’re linked to your bank account, credit score, residence, employment, and much more. To make matters worse, the unsecure ways social security numbers are stored and transmitted make them the prime target of identity thieves. You should challenge or object when businesses and organizations request your social security number. It could save you a lot of grief later.
So, maybe you do protect your Social Security Number, but what about your social media accounts, which are good sources for consumer personal information. When you download a social media application on Internet-connected devices, you may be allowing the app to collect and use your personal information such as your contacts list, family members’ information, or your current location and residence. If possible, look at the application permissions before downloading, and make sure you are comfortable with the information it requests and collects. Facebook alone maintains a plethora of personal information on account users, and the information they collect and sell is growing daily.
Before posting online, think about how it might be perceived now and in the future, and who might see it. Think about what you are posting and how it can be used by cybercriminals. Set the application privacy and security settings on web services and Internet-connected devices to your comfort level. It is a good idea to limit how and with whom you share information. Be aware that when you share a post, picture or video online, you may also be revealing information about others unaware. Be thoughtful when and how you share information about others.
My challenge to everyone this National Data Privacy Day is to look at all your devices that connect to the Internet -- including smart phones -- and ensure they are updated with the latest virus protection software. Review the settings on all social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram. These are just a few of the most popular sites, but there are hundreds more. Ensure these sites are sharing what you want to share with the world based on your own personal risk tolerance. When sharing critical information across business sites like banking or purchasing, be sure that information is encrypted and sites are legitimate.
National Data Privacy Day is for your situational awareness and protection.