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Sileo Identity Theft Prevention & Online Privacy Checklist

CheckmarkIdentity theft prevention is not a one-time solution. You must accumulate layers of privacy and security over time. The following identity theft prevention tips are among those I cover in one of my keynote speeches.

  1. Review your Free Credit Report 3X per year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
  2. Opt-Out of financial junk mail.
  3. Stop Marketing Phone Calls at www.DoNotCall.gov.
  4. Freeze Your Credit. State-by-state instructions at www.Sileo.com/2.
  5. If you don’t want to use a credit freeze, place Fraud Alerts on your 3 credit files.
  6. Use sophisticated Identity Monitoring software to detect theft before it’s disastrous.
  7. Stop Sharing Identity (SSN, address, phone, credit card #s) unless necessary.
  8. Protect Your Wallet or Purse. Watch this video.
  9. Protect Your Computer and Online Identity. Privacy Means Profit
  10. Protect your Laptop. Visit www.Sileo.com/laptop-anti-theft for details.
  11. Bank Online: online bank statements, account alerts and bill-pay.
  12. Buy a Shredder (or 2) & shred everything with identity you don’t need.
  13. Minimize Social Networking Exposure. Privacy Means Profit
  14. Lock down your Social Networking Profiles www.Sileo.com/facebook-safety.
  15. Realize that approximately 50% of the worst ID theft crimes are committed by Acquaintances & Friends.
  16. Set up two-factor authentication with your bank.
  17. Stop Clicking on Links in emails and social networking posts that you don’t recognize as legitimate.
  18. Avoid emails/faxes/letters/calls/people promising Something for Nothing.
  19. Know that protecting Other People’s Privacy is part of your responsibility.
  20. For more tools, purchase a copy of John’s Latest Book on Information Survival, Privacy Means Profit.
  21. Subscribe to The Sileo Report eNewsletter and follow John’s Blog.
  22. Consider bringing John Sileo to speak to your organization on identity theft, cyber crime, social engineering, social media exposure and other topics of information exposure.

iPad Vampires: 7 Simple Security Settings to Stop Data Suckers

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Information is the currency and lifeblood of the modern economy and, unlike the industrial revolution, data doesn’t shut down at dinnertime. As a result, the trend is towards hyper-mobile computing – smartphones and tablets – that connect us to the Internet and a limitless transfusion of information 24-7. It is an addiction that employers encourage because it inevitably means that we are working after hours (scanning emails in bed rather than catching up with our spouse).

In the work we do to change the culture of privacy inside of organizations, we have discovered a dilemma: iPads are not as secure as other forms of computing and are leaking significant amounts of organizational data to corporate spies, data thieves and even competing economies (China, for example, which would dearly love to pirate the recipe for your secret sauce). Do corporations, then, sacrifice security for the sake of efficiency, privacy for the powerful touch screens that offer a jugular of sensitive information?

Of course not! That’d be like driving a race car minus seat belts and air bags.

iPads provide a competitive advantage, and like generations of tools before it (the cotton gin, the PC), individuals and organizations alike will be forced to learn how to operate this equipment safely or risk the bite of intellectual property vampires. Here are 7 Simple Security Settings to help you lock down your iPad much like you would your laptop.

7 Simple Security Settings for Your iPad

  1. Turn On Passcode Lock. Your iPad is just as powerful as your laptop or desktop, so stop treating it like a glorified book. Your iPad is only encrypted when you enable the passcode feature. (Settings/General)
  2. Turn Simple Passcode to Off. Why use only an easy to crack 4-digit passcode when you can implement a full-fledged alphanumeric password? If you can tap out short emails, why not spend 5 seconds on a proper password.
  3. Require Passcode Immediately. It is slightly inconvenient and considerably more secure to have your iPad automatically lock up into passcode mode anytime you leave it alone for a few minutes.
  4. Set Auto Lock to 2 Minutes. Why give the table thief at your favorite café more time to modify your settings to his advantage (to keep it from locking) as he walks out the door with your bank logins, emails and kid pictures.
  5. Turn Erase Data after 10 Tries to On. Even the most sophisticated passcode-cracking software can’t get it done in 10 tries or less. This setting wipes out your data after too many failed attempts. Just make sure your kids don’t accidentally wipe out your iPad (forcing you to restore from your latest iTunes backup).
  6. Use a Password Manager. Your passwords are only as affective as your ability to use them wisely (they need to be long and different for every site). Keeping your passwords in an unencrypted keychain or document is a recipe for complete financial disaster. Download a reputable password-protection app like 1Password to manage and protect any sensitive passwords, credit card numbers, software licenses, etc. Not only is it safe, it’s incredibly convenient and efficient.
  7. Avoid Untrustworthy Apps. Not all applications are friendly. Despite Apple’s well-designed vetting process, there are still malicious apps that slip through the cracks to siphon data out of your device. If the app hasn’t been around for a while and if you haven’t read about it in a reputable journal (Macworld, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc.), don’t load it onto your system. Don’t jail-break your iPad to download apps outside of iTunes. Short-term gain equals long-term risk.

Believe it or not, these simple steps begin to give you a level of security that will discourage casual data vampires. After implementing the Simple 7, move on to 5 Sophisticated Security Settings for iPads for even more robust data defense.

John Sileo lost almost a half-million dollars, his business and his reputation to identity theft. Since then, he’s become America’s leading keynote speaker on identity theft, social media exposure and weapons of manipulation. He helps organizations build successful cultures of privacy. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and Homeland Security. To learn more, visit ThinkLikeASpy.com or contact him directly on 1.800.258.8076.

College Students Destroy Financial Future with Poor Choices

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College is the perfect period of life to begin sound financial practices including protecting privacy. Not only are college students vulnerable, but they are impressionable and well positioned to learn strong habits that will last them a lifetime. As students launch into independence, we, as parents, hope to give them the best tools possible to insure a bright future. One of the most vital tools is to establish healthy habits that will guard their financial and personal identities for the rest of their lives. People ages 18 -24 are the least able to spot identity theft according to the BBB. That age group needed more than four months to realize someone had damaged their credit history or used their identity. By taking a few precautions, a young adult can avoid the crushing job of trying to recover from having given away the keys to their financial future, which is especially overwhelming while navigating life away from home for the first time.

Identity thieves don’t care a whit if the student has a dime – they just want a clean financial record in order to commit crimes using their credit and future buying power. Unfortunately, thieves are often someone the student trusts: a friend, dorm mate, co-worker, or someone who poses as a sanctioned person on campus.  Identity thieves may use personal information to open credit card accounts, access financial accounts, rent an apartment or even commit larger cases of fraud, implicating the student. Here are some tips to get you and your student started down the road to protecting their financial future:

  • Have all sensitive mail sent to parents’ homes only. School mailboxes are not secure and are easily accessed in a dorm or apartment.
  • Store Social Security cards, passports, bank statements, credit card statements and other important documents in a small fire safe in their dorm.
  • As soon as you are done with any documents that have financial information (financial account statements, medical bills,  insurance forms, charge receipts, university tuition payments), shred the documents rather than putting them in the trash in order to foil dumpster divers.
  • Set up account alerts with your credit card companies and banks to notify you via email whenever a transaction occurs. Because it is fresh in your mind, it takes only a few seconds to verify the transaction unlike weeks later when you try to recall each transaction while paying your bill or reconciling your bank statement.
  • Always check credit card bills and bank statements and question unknown purchases. The sooner you catch a breach, the less likely you’ll have complicated financial ramifications.
  • Limit the applications you load on your smartphone or tablet. Many of these apps siphon data off of your device back to unwanted companies and individuals.
  • Never loan a credit or debit card to anyone, even your best friend. Don’t co-sign a loan for a friend as you will be responsible for missed payments.
  • Date of birth is one of the key pieces of information that many companies use to confirm identity. Refrain from sharing your correct date of birth on Facebook or any place online. Friends who you want to know your birthday should learn that from you personally. Even putting only the month and day is risky as it’s pretty easy to ascertain the year based on your profile.
  • Use long passwords with a mix of letters, numbers and characters (e.g., &63DB4x%gX); According to Gibson Research, a password that is 10 characters is vastly harder to crack than one containing nine characters. If you need help remembering them, use a password protection program.
  • Update antivirus and spyware software on personal computers. Identity thieves rely on special programs, transferred to personal laptops and computers from numerous websites, to duplicate people’s passwords, user ID’s and bank account information.
  • Check credit reports for free three times a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Request a report from a different credit union every four months and you’ve got the year covered.
  • Get off mailing lists for pre-approved credit offers, which are a goldmine for identity thieves. To opt out of financial junk mail, call 888-5-OPTOUT or visit www.OptOutPreScreen.com to remove your name from national lists. Be prepared to provide your Social Security number (in this case, that is a risk worth taking).
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails or postings on social media. In addition to installing malware on your computer, many of them are phishing schemes that trick you into entering your Social Security number, user name or account passwords.
  • Never give out financial or account information to unsolicited callers, even if they say they are from your bank (you are not in control of the call when it’s incoming).
  • Do not share phone numbers or list your residence hall names and/or floor number designations online – or anyplace. Identity thieves frequently show up on campus pretending to represent a legitimate company, possibly using the school’s logo or colors on the credit card. Once the scammers get students’ personal information, they can then use it themselves or sell it for a profit.

Heartily impress upon your students (and yourself!) to guard identity with a vengeance and save untold time and money attempting recovery. Doing so might be the most profitable education they receive.

7 Steps to Secure Profitable Business Data (Part II)

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In the first part of this article series, we discussed why it is so important to protect your business data, including the first two steps in the protection process. Once you have resolved the underlying human issues behind data theft, the remaining five steps will help you begin protecting the technological weaknesses common to many businesses.

  1. Start with the humans.
  2. Immunize against social engineering.
  3. Stop broadcasting your digital data. There are two main sources of wireless data leakage: the weakly encrypted wireless router in your office and the unprotected wireless connection you use to access the Internet in an airport, hotel or café. Both connections are constantly sniffed for unencrypted data being sent from your computer to the web.Strategy: Have a security professional configure the wireless router in your office to utilize WPA-2 encryption or better. If possible, implement MAC-specific addressing and mask your SSID. Don’t try to do this yourself. Instead, invest your money in proportion to the value of the asset you are protecting and hire a professional. While the technician is there, have him do a thorough security audit of your network. You will never be sorry for investing the additional money in cyber security.To protect your data while surfing on the road, set up wireless tethering with your mobile phone provider (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile) and stop using other people’s free or fee hot spots. Using a simple program called Firesheep, data criminals can “sniff” the data you send across these free connections. Unlike most hot-spot transmissions, your mobile phone communications are encrypted and will give you Internet access from anywhere you can make a call.
  4. Eliminate the inside spy. Most businesses don’t perform a serious background check before hiring a new employee. That is short sighted, as much of the worst data theft ends up being an “inside job” where a dishonest employee siphons information out the back door when no one is looking. In the consulting work we have done with breached companies, we have discovered the number one predictor of future theft by an employee – past theft. Most employees who are dishonest now were also dishonest in the past, which is why they no longer work for their former employer.Strategy: Invest in a comprehensive background check before you hire rather than wasting multiples cleaning up after a thief steals valuable data assets. Follow up on the prospect’s references and ask for some that aren’t on the application. Investigating someone’s background will give you the knowledge necessary to let your gut-level instinct go to work. More importantly, letting your prospective hire know in advance that you will be performing a comprehensive background check will discourage dishonest applicants from going further in the process (watch the video for further details). I personally recommend CSIdentity’s SAFE product, which is a technologically superior service to other background screen services.
  5. Don’t let your mobile data walk away. In the most trusted research studies, 36-50% of all major data breach originates with the loss of a laptop or mobile computing device (smart phone, etc.). Mobility, consequently, is a double-edged sword (convenience and confidentiality); but it’s a sword that we’re probably not going to give up easily.Strategy: Utilize the security professional mentioned above to implement strong passwords, whole disk encryption and remote data-wiping capabilities. Set your screen saver to engage after 5 minutes of inactivity and check the box that requires you to enter your password upon re-entry. This will help keep unwanted users out of your system. Finally, lock this goldmine of data down when you aren’t using it. Either carry the computer on your person (making sure not to set it down in airports, cafes, conferences, etc.), store it in the hotel room safe, or lock it in an office or private room when not using it. Physical security is the most overlooked, most effective form of protection.
  6. Spend a day in your dumpster. You have probably already purchased at least one shredder to destroy sensitive documents before they are thrown out. The problem tends to be that no one in the business uses it consistently.Strategy: Take a day to pretend that you are your fiercest competitor and sort through all of the trash going out your door for sensitive documents. Do you find old invoices, credit card receipts, bank statements, customer lists, trade secrets, employee records or otherwise compromising information? It’s not uncommon to find these sources of data theft, and parading them before your staff is a great way to drive the importance of privacy home. If your employees know that you conduct occasional “dumpster audits” to see what company intelligence they are unsafely throwing away, they will think twice about failing to shred the next document. In addition to properly disposing of new documents, make sure that you hire a reputable on-site shredding company to dispose of the banker’s boxes full of document archives you house in a back room somewhere within your offices.
  7. Anticipate the clouds. Cloud computing (when you store your data on other people’s servers), is quickly becoming a major threat to the security of organizational data. Whether an employee is posting sensitive corporate info on their Facebook page (which Facebook has the right to distribute as they see fit) or you are storing customer data in a poorly protected, noncompliant server farm, you will ultimately be held responsible when that data is breached.Strategy: Spend a few minutes evaluating your business’s use of cloud computing by asking these questions: Do you understand the cloud service provider’s privacy policy (e.g. that the government reserves the right to subpoena your Gmails for use in a court of law)? Do you agree to transfer ownership or control of rights in any way when you accept the provider’s terms of service (which you do every time you log into the service)? What happens if the cloud provider (Salesforce.com, Google Apps) goes out of business or is bought out? Is your data stored locally, or in another country that would be interested in stealing your secrets (China, Iran, Russia)? Are you violating any compliance laws by hosting customer data on servers that you don’t own, and ultimately, don’t control? If you are bound by HIPAA, SOX, GLB, Red Flags or other forms of legislation, you might be pushing the edges of compliance.

By taking these simple steps, you will begin starving data thieves of the information they literally take to the bank. This is a cost-effective, incremental process of making your business a less attractive target. But it doesn’t start working until you do.

John Sileo, the award-winning author of Privacy Means Profit, delivers keynote speeches on identity theft, data security, social media exposure and weapons of influence. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Homeland Security, Blue Cross, the FDIC and hundreds of corporations, organizations and associations of all sizes. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com.

 

7 Steps to Secure Profitable Business Data (Part I)

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Everybody wants your data. Why? Because it’s profitable, it’s relatively easy to access and the resulting crime is almost impossible to trace. Take, for example, Sony PlayStation Network, Citigroup, Epsilon, RSA, Lockheed and several other businesses that have watched helplessly in the past months as more than 100 million customer records have been breached, ringing up billions in recovery costs and reputation damage. You have so much to lose.

To scammers, your employees’ Facebook profiles are like a user’s manual about how to manipulate their trust and steal your intellectual property. To competitors, your business is one poorly secured smartphone from handing over the recipe to your secret sauce. And to the data spies sitting near you at Starbucks, you are one unencrypted wireless connection away from wishing you had taken the steps in this two-part article.

Every business is under assault by forces that want access to customer databases, employee records, intellectual property, and ultimately, your bottom line. Research is screaming at us—more than 80% of businesses surveyed have already experienced at least one breach and have no idea of how to stop a repeat performance. Combine this with the average cost to repair data loss, a stunning $7.2 million per incident (both statistics according to the Ponemon Institute), and you have a profit-driven mandate to change the way you protect information inside of your organization. “But the risk inside of my business,” you say, “would be no where near that costly.” Let’s do the math.

A Quick and Dirty Way to Calculate Your Business’s Data Risk

Here is a quick ROI formula for your risk: Add up the total number of customer, employee and vendor database records you collect that contain any of the following pieces of information – name, address, email, credit card number, SSN, Tax ID Number, phone number, address, PIN – and multiply that number by $250 (a conservative average of the per record cost of lost data). So, if you have identifying information on 10,000 individuals, your out-of-pocket expenses (breach recovery, notification, lawsuits, etc.) are estimated at $2.5 million even if you don’t lose a SSN or TIN. And that cost doesn’t necessarily factor in the public relations and stock value damage done when you make headlines in the papers.

In an economy where you already stretch every resource to the limit, you need to do more with less. Certain solutions have a higher return on investment. Start with these 7 Steps to Secure Profitable Business Data.

  1. Start with the humans. One of the costliest data security mistakes I see companies make is to only approach data privacy from the perspective of the company. But this ignores a crucial reality: All privacy is personal. In other words, no one in your organization will care about data security, privacy policies, intellectual property protection or data breach until they understand what it has to do with them.Strategy: Give your people the tools to protect themselves personally from identity theft. In addition to showing them that you care (a good employee retention strategy), you are developing a privacy language and framework that can be easily adapted to business. Once your people understand opting out, encryption and identity monitoring from a personal standpoint, it’s a short leap to apply that to your customer databases, physical documents and intellectual property. Start with the personal and expand into the professional. It’s like allowing people to put on their own oxygen masks before taking responsibility for those next to them. For an example of how the Department of Homeland Security applied this strategy, take a look at the short video.
  2. Immunize against social engineering. The root cause of most data loss is not technology; it’s a human being who makes a costly miscalculation out of fear, obligation, confusion, bribery or sense of urgency. Social engineering is the craft of manipulating information out of humans by pushing buttons that elicit automatic responses. Data thieves push these buttons for highly profitable ends, including spear-phishing, social networking fraud, unauthorized building access, and computer hacking.Strategy: Immunize your workforce against social engineering. First, when asked for information, they should immediately apply a healthy dose of professional skepticism. Train them to automatically assume that the requestor is a spy of some sort. Second, teach them to take control of the situation. If they didn’t initiate the transfer of information (e.g., someone official approaches them for login credentials), have them stop and think before they share. Finally, during this moment of hesitation, empower them to ask a series of aggressive questions aimed at exposing fraud. When we do this type of training, whether it is for the Department of Defense, a Fortune 50 or a small business, the techniques are the same. You have to make a game out of it, make it interesting, interactive and fun. That’s how people learn. For an example of fraud training in action, visit www.Sileo.com/fun-fraud.

You will notice that the first 2 Steps have nothing to do with technology or what you might traditionally associate with data security. They have everything to do with human behavior. Failing to begin with human factor, with core motivations and risky habits, will almost certainly guarantee that your privacy initiatives will fail. You can’t simply force a regime of privacy on your company. You need to build a coalition; you need to instill a culture of privacy, one security brick at a time.

Once you have acknowledged the supreme importance of obtaining buy-in from your employees and training them as people first, data handlers second, then you can move on to the next 5 Steps to Secure Profitable Business Data.

John Sileo, the award-winning author of Privacy Means Profit, delivers keynote speeches on identity theft, data security, social media exposure and weapons of influence. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Homeland Security, Blue Cross, the FDIC and hundreds of corporations, organizations and associations of all sizes. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com.

Celebrity Identity Theft – Fraud from the Inside

This morning, I delivered a fraud training speech in Beverly Hills. As you can imagine, the famous and the wealthy tend to suffer more than the average person from information overexposure and fraud. They are, after all, public figures, worth a great deal, and the focus of over-zealous fans and media. The rich and famous are the perfect storm for information abuse, and we have much to learn from the way they protect their privacy. Dishonest people want to be them, at least long enough to drain their sizable resources, and their family and friends aren’t often far behind. Identity theft and other types of fraud, unfortunately, allow this fantasy to become a reality in the hands of a clever impostor.

The rich and famous are the perfect storm for information abuse, and we have much to learn from the way the protect their privacy.

Oddly, many cases of celebrity identity theft or privacy exposure I come across are committed by acquaintances of the star. It’s the brother-in-law of the franchise quarterback who feels like they deserve a cut of the action. It’s the movie star’s house guest who justifies pilfering financial assets using virtual methods (electronic bank transfers, credit card theft, investment fraud, medical insurance fraud, data resale). Or it’s the medical facility treating an ailing actress that sells information to the paparazzi. But no one, including the most self-absorbed celebrity or athlete, deserves to lose their privacy, their data or their wealth at the hands of a thief. Wealth and status do not exempt the famous from the violative consequences of these crimes.

Learning to anticipate fraud and avoid the inside job takes rigorous in-person training like that sponsored by City National Bank this morning, but in the meantime, here are some steps that you (celebrity or otherwise) can take to lower your public profile:

  1. De-list yourself from your local phone company White Pages and directory assistance. Local directory listings are one of the primary sources of all phone, address, and reverse look-up databases. Stop it locally and you will drastically limit your exposure globally. Note that you will probably have to pay your phone company to opt out of directory services.
  2. Remove your house from Google Maps Street View. Why advertise what you are worth to virtual criminals? Make them drive by if they want a look.
  3. Remove your phone number from Google’s Reverse Phone/Address Lookup. This is one of the first tools thieves use to turn your phone number into an address.
  4. Implement the Identity Theft Prevention Checklist I discussed during the speech.
  5. Use cash, which is non-digital, untraceable and anonymous.
  6. Limit your use of Loyalty Discount Cards (like at the grocery store), which track, aggregate and sell your purchasing habits.
  7. Customize your Facebook Privacy Settings.
  8. If you are ultra serious about privacy, consider Deleting Your Facebook Account.
  9. Email me if you would like a copy of my presentation slides. These slides are restricted to members in yesterday’s audience, so please include the name of the room in which the meeting was held.
  10. Sign up for my Privacy Project Newsletter (once a month – privacy and information survival updates).
  11. For further tips and details on protecting your data, your privacy and your profits, read Privacy Means Profit (Wiley, 2010).

John Sileo speaks around the world on identity theft, privacy, social networking exposure, cyber crime, social engineering and other topics of information survival. His clients include the Department of Defense, Blue Cross, FDIC, Pfizer and hundreds of organizations of all sizes. He also coaches select clients on information survival. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Information Survival: Your Life Depends on It

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I became a professional identity theft speaker because my business partner used my identity (and my business’s impeccable 40-year reputation) to embezzle more than a quarter million dollars from our best, most trusting customers. Thanks to drawn-out criminal trials and a seriously impaired lack of attention to my business, I suddenly found myself without a profession.

So I wrote a book about my mistakes, and with a little luck, it led to a speaking career based in first-hand experiences with data theft. The formula works – sharing my failure to protect sensitive information and losing just about everything as a result – my wealth, my business, my job and nearly my family – is a powerful motivator for audiences, both as individuals and professionals. People only understand and act upon the corrosive nature of this crime when they can taste it’s bitterness for themselves. My goal has always been to provide a safe and effective appetizer of data theft that convinces audiences to feed on prevention rather than recovery.

But I’ve realized through my contact with exceptionally smart people, from the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security to Fortune 500 executives and privacy experts, that identity theft (and it’s close business relative, data breach), are just symptoms of a larger movement undermining personal lives and profit margins on a daily basis —  a movement that demands we be trained in the art of information survival.

What is Information Survival?

We are bombarded by information, 24 hours a day –  24/7 news, email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, texting, instant messaging, voice mail, cell phones – and the mobile revolution means that we have access at all times of the day, every where we go. Confronted by so much data, we are often forced to process it instantly, relying on shortcuts and bad data along the way to make rapid decisions at digital speeds. And when we make rapid decisions, we often make mistakes.

Recently, Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University, witnessed the cruel speed and ubiquity of information when his room mates posted a YouTube video of him having what he believed was a private sexual encounter in his dorm room. Humiliated, Tyler made a rushed decision to throw his young life over the George Washington bridge. His is the cruelest failure of information survival because Tyler never had a chance to control the information, the video, that would destroy him. Thankfully, we can teach other youngsters how to control what information they can control, and how to survive the rest.

Best selling author, Larry Winget, put it well in a post on my Facebook wall last week:

I agree that teaching our children not to bully others is an issue that must be addressed – but teaching our children not to be victims of bullies is more important. — Larry Winget (emphasis mine)

Information survival is the skill set that allows each of us to weather the downsides of a data-driven economy, to thrive in a knowledge-is-power world without stooping to use information as a weapon, like Tyler’s roommates did. Information survival is part data control, part self-esteem.

When we consciously withhold certain information from our Facebook profile (date of birth, hometown, current location), we are engaging in information survival. When the United States forms a task force to defend our power plants, stock markets, banks, air traffic control, water supply and phone connections against cyber attack, we are acknowledging the power of information, and the imperative of survival training. The company employee who refuses to transmit sensitive data on an unprotected wireless connection in a cafe, the executive who leads by example while instilling a culture of privacy in his corporation, the college student who understands the destructive power of their next post — these are all examples of information survival in action.

Don’t wait to train your people on information survival – whether they are your kids, your employees, or yourself.

John Sileo is a professional speaker on information survival, social media exposure, identity theft and cyber crime for the Department of Defense, Fortune 1000 companies and any organization that wants to protect the profitability of their private information. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076 or visit his speaker’s website at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com.

Information Security Speaker: 5 Information Espionage Hotspots Threatening Businesses

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You and your business are worth a lot of money, whether your bank accounts show it or not. The goldmine lies in your data, and everyone wants it. Competitors want to hire the employee you just fired for the thumb drive full of confidential files they smuggled out. Data thieves salivate over your Facebook profile, which provides as a “how to” guide for exploiting your trust. Cyber criminals are digitally sniffing the wireless connection you use at Starbucks to make bank transfers and send “confidential” emails.

Every business is under assault by forces that want access to your valuable data: identity records, customer databases, employee files, intellectual property, and ultimately, your net worth. Research is screaming at us—more than 80% of businesses surveyed have already experienced at least one breach (average recovery cost: $6.75 million) and have no idea of how to stop a repeat performance. These are clear, profit-driven reasons to care about who controls your data.

Information Espionage Hotspots

Here are 5 Information Espionage Hotspots that your business should address now:

  1. Lousy training. One of the costliest data security mistakes I see companies make is attempting to train employees from the perspective of the company. This ignores a crucial reality: All privacy is personal. In other words, no one in your organization will care about data security until they understand what it has to do with them. Strategy: Give your people the tools to protect themselves personally from identity theft. In addition to showing them that you care (a good employee retention strategy), you are developing a privacy language that can be applied to business. Once they understand opting out, encryption and identity monitoring from a personal standpoint, it’s a short leap to apply that to your customer databases and intellectual property. See the video above for an example of bridging the worlds of personal privacy and corporate data security.
  2. Human weakness. The root cause of most data loss is not technology; it’s a human being who makes a costly miscalculation out of fear, obligation, confusion, greed or sense of urgency. Social engineering is the craft of extracting information out of you or your staff by pushing buttons that elicit automatic responses. Strategy: Immunize your workforce against social engineering and poor decision making. Fraud training teaches your people how to handle requests for login credentials, passwords, employee and customer data, unauthorized building access and an office full of information whose disappearance will land you on the front page of the newspaper. The latest frontier that thieves are exploiting are your employees social networks, especially Facebook and LinkedIn. It is imperative that you have a well-thought-out, clearly communicated social networking policy that minimizes the risks of data leakage, reputation damage and trust manipulation. 
  3. Wireless surfing. There are two main sources of wireless data leakage: the weakly encrypted wireless router in your office and the unprotected wireless connection you use to access the Internet in an airport, hotel or café. Both connections are constantly sniffed for unprotected data being sent from your computer to the web. Strategy: Have a security professional configure the wireless router in your office. Here is your laundry list of things to ask her to do. She will understand the terminology: Utilize WPA-2 encryption or better; Implement MAC-specific addressing and mask your SSID; While she’s there, have her do a security audit of your network; To protect your connection while surfing on the road, purchase an encrypted high-speed USB modem from one of the major carriers (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T) and STOP using other people’s free/fee hotspots.
  4. Inside spies. Chances are you rarely perform a serious background check before hiring a new employee. That is short sighted, as most of the worst data theft ends up being an “inside job” where a dishonest employee siphons information out a “digital door” when no one is looking. Many employees who are dishonest now were also dishonest in the past, which is why they no longer work for their former employer. Strategy: Invest in a comprehensive background check using a product like CSIdentity.com’s SAFE before you hire instead of wasting much more money cleaning up after a thief steals valuable data assets. Follow up on the prospect’s references and ask for some that aren’t on the application. Investigating someone’s background jump starts your intuition and discourages dishonest applicants from the outset.
  5. Mobile data. In the most trusted research studies, 36-50% of data breach originates with the loss of a laptop or mobile computing device (smart phone, thumb drive, etc.). Mobility, consequently, is a double-edged sword; but it’s a sword that we’re probably not going to give up easily. Utilize the security professional mentioned above to implement strong passwords, whole disk encryption and remote data wiping capabilities. In addition, physically secure this goldmine of data down when you aren’t using it. Strategy: Utilize the security professional mentioned above to implement strong passwords, whole disk encryption, and remote laptop-tracking and data-wiping capabilities. Set your screen saver to engage after 5 minutes of inactivity and check the box that requires you to enter your password upon re-entry. This will help keep unwanted users out of your system. Finally, lock this goldmine of data down when you aren’t using it.

Your espionage countermeasures don’t need to be sophisticated or expensive to be effective. Targeting the hotspots above is a savvy, incremental way to keep spies out of your profit margins. But it won’t start working until you do.

John Sileo speaks professionally on identity theft, data breach and social networking exposure, and is the author of the newly released Privacy Means Profit. His clients include the Department of Defense, the FDIC, FTC, Pfizer and the Federal Reserve Bank. Learn more about bringing him in to motivate your organization to better protect information assets.

5 Steps to Good Privacy Habits

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People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.
—Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

People don’t change bad habits until they have a compelling reason. Too often that compelling reason is the result of a habit’s negative outcome; but the promise of positive rewards resulting from the establishment of good habits can be a strong motivator. In the workplace, aligning responsible information stewardship with personal and professional gain can set the stage for good privacy habits.

Here are 5 steps you can take towards perfecting your own Privacy Habits:

  1. Tighten up online passwords. Create strong, alphanumeric passwords. Instead of your password being Sunflower make it $uNf(0w3R.  Don’t use common password reminders such as your dog’s name, street address, or mother’s maiden name. All of those would be easily uncovered by an identity thief.
  2. Buy a Shredder – and use it. By shredding anything that has your name, address, birthday, social security number, or account numbers on it, you will be less likely to have your identity stolen through the trash. Make sure that the shredder you chose is kept in a convenient location – if you can’t get to it fast, you won’t use it!
  3. Secure your Facebook. Tighten up the privacy settings and make your profile only available to your friends. We do a lot of posts on Facebook Privacy Settings because they have a tendency to change frequently. Watch the site and subscribe to our newsletter to stay current on how to protect yourself and your profile on Facebook.
  4. Opt-Out. Take the time to call 1-888-567-8688 or visit www.OptOutPreScreen.com
    to stop financial junk mail from ending up at your house and inevitably – your trash. Those mailers give thieves an easy way to set up credit card accounts in your name without your consent. They spend money on the card and default on the balance, leaving you with the mess of proving that you didn’t make the purchases.
  5. Order your free credit report. By law, you are entitled to one free report from each agency once a year. The easiest way to get a report is to visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Make sure that you request your free annual credit report from one credit agency only, as you can order the other two reports throughout the remainder of the year. By spreading the reports out over time, you will be monitoring your files consistently and frequently.

To learn more and begin to build your own good privacy habits pre-order your copy of my latest book Privacy Means Profit Today!

Wiley & Sons has just announced my latest book, Privacy Means Profit, will be available in stores and online August 9, 2010.  This book builds a bridge between good personal privacy habits (protect your wallet, online banking, trash, etc.) with the skills and motivation to protect workplace data (bulletproof your laptop, server, hiring policies, etc.).

Click Here for More Information

Identity Theft Prevention in a Hotel

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I just finished giving an identity theft prevention and data privacy speech for Pfizer and one of the questions I received was how to protect your laptop, passports, client files, etc. when you leave them behind in your hotel room. I’ve blogged on this before, but thought that I would post a quick video reminder on protecting your identity in a hotel room. We are at such a greater risk of identity theft when we are traveling that it is worth taking a second look at your habits.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O4NLYOX8m0[/youtube]

For more tips of this type, please visit my YouTube Identity Theft Expert Video Channel at www.YouTube.com/JohnSileo. It is relatively new, but my office is working diligently to add content every week. Some people like to read, some like to watch, so I will continue to add blogs of both types. Travel wisely this summer.

John Sileo
Motivational Identity Theft Speaker