October 22nd, 2017

Keeping your info safe in the digital age


By Medicine Hat News Opinon on March 1, 2017.

While this digital era of smartphones, tablets and social media has created an amazing communication age across the world, it is not without its thorns amid the roses.

Privacy is one casualty of the new communication age. With smartphones and social media sites like Facebook it is nearly impossible to keep a low profile. We can no longer claim to have not been around to catch a phone call if you don’t feel like speaking, for example, as everyone has their phone on them at all times nowadays.

And applications like Facebook are undeniably useful, but they also allow you to be tracked with relative ease through the digital ether, and must be used cautiously. Be sure you do not accept friend requests from anyone you don’t know and keep what information you post in the PG category lest you wish to see your dirty laundry aired for all to see.

Another casualty of the communication age is security. With everything increasingly online in the world, banking, tax records and medical records, etc., for the determined hacker, (either personal device mischief maker or full-on corporate raider), there is an abundance of personal and sensitive information which can be derived through the use of backdoor code flaws in mobile devices, custom viruses like Cloudbleed and malicious spyware. These elements can turn your own devices into a spider web to capture your information.

And finally, remember this rule of thumb: There is no such thing as a free lunch. It is incredibly important you keep this in mind before delving into any “free” apps of unknown provenance, accepting random online requests or uploading software you do not fully understand. When somebody is offering it free on your device in app form look at the permissions you must grant carefully: If the app demands access to your phone contacts or social media files, for example, the app is likely a data mining trick. You are giving away incredibly sensitive information to play a game, remember that.

It’s the same on Facebook with those personality tests which demand you login again using you Facebook user name and password. By doing so, you are giving an unknown entity access to all your contacts, account information and whatever else you got going on inside your profile at the moment.

Visiting a website which demands you download something to use it is also a big no no. You never know what you could be bringing in with that download in the way of viruses or spyware, and even the best anti-virus firewall is no guarantee of 100 per cent protection when you are agreeing to the download in the first place.

This new communication age is a lot of fun. We have so many options, and we have access to so much information at the touch of our fingertips. We should enjoy it, but also take reasonable precautions. Think of going online like going to the beach. Swim, enjoy the sunshine and sand, but remember your water safety precautions. And don’t forget your sunscreen or your hat.

(Tim Kalinowski is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to http://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions.)


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