Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Smart Safety: Lock down devices for National Data Privacy Day

As new tech devices were given as gifts this holiday season the old models were discarded to junk drawers or sold for cash. Many without being wiped so personal data like phone books, photos and other files are still available. This isn’t the only privacy breach created by the holiday tech frenzy. New devices that are instantly powered on and put to use often do not have the same personalized settings as ones that have been in use for a few years or months. It can be hard to remember what apps have privacy adjustments that must be made.

January 28th is National Data Privacy Day and the entire month of January is dedicated as Clean Up Your Computer Month. Privacy and security expert Shaun Murphy, founder of and a former government security consultant, created the following five ways consumers can secure their online data in 2016.

Stop digital hoarding and delete old stuff
You have your pick of many social media and cloud storage options that will happily store your files, pictures and videos all for free. The problem with this convenience, and relatively generous capacity, is you tend to stick stuff in these systems and never take it out. This can lead to a dangerous mixture of relatively benign content mixed with sensitive material (tax information, intimate pictures, etc.) that might just be leaked during a data breach or hack.

Speaking of free
Free is always nice but there's a saying in the tech community that "if you are not paying for it... you are the product being sold". Take some time to read free services' terms of use and what rights you are granting them when you download or use the service. After a few dozen pages of reading you will be reaching for that delete button – assuming the delete button actually deletes the data.

Revisit your friends
It has taken you years to build up your friends and followers online, but do you know who they really are? It is a well-known fact that hackers create fake accounts to be able to access other, unsuspecting, user’s private information. Having large groups of first-degree contacts may make you look more impressive, but it can open you up for target phishing attacks or simply expose data you mean for your true friends to a larger audience. Start your friend “spring cleaning” early and ask, do you know the person, are they actively contributing to the online community, is there anything in their profile that doesn't seem quite right? If you answer no to the first and second questions or yes to the last, disconnect from that “friend”.

Simplify communication
How many services do you use to communicate with people? Email, social media, texting, an alternative texting app, the list goes on. Our messaging workflow is so complex now it's hard to keep track of who's on which service and you're constantly app jumping. Want to send a huge file to someone? Now you're throwing a cloud storage service into the mix. It's no wonder you hear about all of these hacks, there's so much unprotected data floating around on these systems it's almost impossible for people to keep track!

Cryptography is king
If you want to use cloud-based services to backup data, sync important files, or simply transmit a file to someone, make sure you encrypt it before the data ever leaves your device. This will prevent the data from falling into the wrong hands and from any eavesdropping from third parties (even the service itself). Most solutions out there now are very complex to use but consider using a compression program (like the free and open sourced 7-zip) and also AES-256 encrypt the files with a long password. (

For more information about protecting your security and privacy online, visit: SNDR™ is a new app that combines all the ways you already communicate into a single platform. You can text, email, share files and use social media all from one app. And, every message is encrypted and completely secure.

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