Okay. All former presidents of the United States whose family members had their email accounts hacked recently, step forward.
That’s right. It was reported late last week that relatives and close friends of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the 41st and 43rd commanders-in-chief, respectively, have fallen victim to a cyber attack. Pictures and private correspondence between families members were stolen and posted online for all to see, including apparent self-portraits painted of George W. while bathing and a letter about planning funeral arrangements for his father (who is still alive). Tell me how much you’d like it if your “artwork” showed up online for the world to see.
“Ah, but it was the former President of the United States that was targeted, not a lowly voter like me,” you say. And in that statement lies the greatest risk of all – complacency. “I’m too small to target,” or “I don’t have enough money or power to target.”. You are wrong, and your attitude will come back to haunt you.
Anyone can be targeted and have their online privacy invaded and their digital reputations tarnished if they don’t take proper preventative measures. And those who think they can’t are the first ones to fall.
I’ll bet that one of the Bush’s violated one of the 3 Cardinal Rules of Email Safety:
– Create long (13+ characters), strong (alpha+numeric+symbol+upper-lower-case), unique (not your dog’s name or a dictionary word or anything you’d post on Facebook) passwords. For example, if you are the President of the United States, don’t use the words “President,” “POTUS” or “Millie,” as they violate all three rules.
– Never use the same password on multiple sites because if one gets hacked, they all fall down.
– Don’t click on any email (or Facebook) links from people you don’t know or from people you know but wouldn’t send that type of link (their email account has been taken over).
Whatever the source of the breach turns out to be, the point is that anyone can be victimized if they let themselves be. You can only blame technology so much before you need to take some responsibility for the breach. Both father and son no longer sit behind the big desk in the Oval Office, but they are still public figures who resonate with their political party.
The problem extends beyond us as individuals. As employees and executives, we must understand that hackers are trying to exploit these same weaknesses in internet privacy to gain access into our businesses. All it takes is for one online account to be infiltrated inside of an organization and the dominoes may come crashing down until none are left standing.
John Sileo is a data security expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy and risk management. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.