Safeguarding Your Digital Presence

The following post is from Michelle of Mommy Misadventures:

Safeguarding Your Digital Presence
source: Michael Reuter

Earlier this week, senior writer for Wired magazine Mat Honan revealed that he had been the victim of a hacker. In less than an hour, the hacker had decimated Mat Honan’s digital life, by first accessing his Google account and using the information found there to access other accounts, including his Twitter account and most devastatingly, his AppleID.

The results were devastating. Losing access to a Twitter account? In the grand scheme of things, annoying but arguably not that big of a deal. But having hackers not only delete your entire Google account but also access and remotely delete your Apple devices via Apple’s own remote tools? Horrific.

Most tragically, the hacker cost Mr. Honan all the images he had ever taken of his daughter.

It Can Happen to Anyone

Mr. Honan had an opportunity to “chat” with his hacker via Twitter and discovered that the crime had been one of opportunity. The hacker had targeted Mr. Honan for nothing more than his Twitter handle. But once the hacker had access to Mr. Honan’s account, the temptation to just destroy everything was too great.

What Does it Mean

Mat Honan’s experience highlights two very important security issues facing all Internet users: the inherent security flaws of big companies and how they can be exploited; and the importance of being responsible Internet users.

In addition to holding companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google responsible for addressing their inherent security flaws, it is up to us as Internet users to help safeguard our own accounts as best we can against malicious attacks.

Securing Your Accounts

I have talked about online security on Tech Your Way before but here are a few reminders and tips on how to help safeguard your information on the Internet:

Password

Create a secure password and change it regularly. Secure passwords have more than 8 characters, include alphanumeric and special characters. Never use plain dictionary words or easy to figure out keyboard sequences (example: abcd1234 qwerty7890) as these are easy to hack. Avoid easy to guess passwords like your child’s name or your favorite pet.

Use a different password for each account and remember to change your password regularly. Updating your password every three months is a good rule of thumb. If you have trouble keeping track of your password, one of the safer methods to keep track of it is via a paper notebook. Mandi has a great online password printable for your home notebook here.

Enable additional verification

In his article about the hack, Mr. Honan admitted that one of the things he could have done that could have prevented much of this was to enable 2-step verification on his Google account.

What is it?

When you log in to your account, via your computer or device, a verification code is sent to your phone. In order to complete your login, you must enter the code to verify your identity.

I’ll be truthful here: this can be a royal pain, especially if you access your accounts from multiple devices. But adding that additional layer of protection for your vital information is well worth the extra 10 seconds of inconvenience.

Who should enable it?

Enable 2-step verification on any Google account that may have access to any personal information. This includes name, address, telephone numbers, and any account that may have partial identifying information like the last four digits of your social security number, credit cards, bank account numbers, etc.

You can learn more about additional verification process on Google and on Yahoo.

Back Up Your Data

Among the things Mr. Honan lost during his hack were the digital memories he captured of his child. He had no backups. There is no way to retrieve the data. It. Is. Gone. (Just thinking about it makes me so sad!)

Mandi has said it before and I’ll repeat it here: backup, backup, backup!! Losing access to a Twitter account and even having your email completely sacked are major inconveniences, but losing precious memories is the absolute worst.

Backing up via online services like Mozy or Dropbox is a good idea but if your main email account is compromised in the way that Mr. Honan’s was, this may not do any good. After all, Mr. Honan had iCloud enabled, which was how the hacker was able to remotely format all of his devices.

In addition to backing up via an online service, I strongly suggest archiving your most important data — including family memories and financial records — to a DVD and storing that DVD in a safe place, temperature controlled place. Both Windows 7 and Mac OS X include utilities that allow you to backup to an external disc like a DVD drive.

How secure is your data? What do you have to lose?

Michelle Mista is an IT professional, writer and blogger with a love for all kinds of technology. She writes about tech tips and trends for work at home professionals on her portfolio blog and muses about motherhood at Mommy Misadventures. She is on the constant quest to balance life, work and geekery.
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