How to Avoid Getting Your Digital Life Stolen, Erased and Screwed Up

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I’ve expressed my concern over the rapid spread of LCD backlit screens, which disrupt and dominate attention.

While lost attention and focus is one negative byproduct of more screens, security threats is another. Especially since so many distributed screens and devices connect online with our unique profiles and require deeply personal information, like social security numbers, usernames, passwords, credit card numbers and more.

I was victimized by a criminal hacking group, who took over my site and turned it into a traffic optimizer for black-market drug stores. That was a royal pain in the a$$ to resolve. I’ve also had my credit card number stolen a few times. Fortunately, though, credit card companies (like American Express) protect you well against fraud.

Of course, there’s the recent story of Matt Honan, a poor sucker who was hacked royally, and lost a ton of personal information across devices. He had little backed up.

The key trend is: The more devices and online services you have, the greater your security risk.

Trend Micro certainly underscored this with its recent provision of some Galaxy Tablets to my family, as part of its Digital Joneses online security project. These tablets are awesome — like giant versions of my beloved Evo smartphone. But they operate well ONLY IF you equip them with apps and online services that plug directly into your personal identity.

So, Trend Micro also provided some smart tips that we all should remember to protect our digital identities and assets. Indeed, this is only the beginning of the proliferation of smart digital devices in our lives. We’re entering new territory, as far as our digital security is concerned.

How to Avoid Getting Your Digital Life Stolen, Erased and Screwed Up

  1. Set up two-factor e-mail authentication. By doing this, you ensure that no one else can log into your e-mail account from a device that you have not authenticated through this system.
  2. Use different password for all your online accounts. I have a personal method that works whereby I have a strong root password, but append additional characters based on the type of service I’m using. This makes it easier to remember passwords across the dozens of online services and devices I use. (Trend Micro also offers such a service with its DirectPass.
  3. Backup all of your most important files to the cloud or to a separate hard drive. Most people’s large, valuable data assets are photos, videos and music, so I’d suggest keeping those files with popular online services, like Flickr, YouTube, and Amazon’s music cloud. For personal documents and other files that are relatively important but not too personal (like tax returns or medical files), I use Google Drive. (Trend Micro also offers a backup service called SafeSync which is heavier duty.)
  4. Avoid browser auto-fill forms with credit card or social security numbers. Credit card numbers and the last four digits of your social security number are sensitive, so avoid giving these out. I use American Express, which has always been by my side during any security breach.
  5. Avoid using Facebook or Twitter authentication to log into accounts. As tempting and easy as it is to do this (aka, “the frictionless web”), it is a bad idea to daisy-chain accounts together like this. That makes it easier for hackers to vandalize your entire digital life online if they are able to gain access to your Facebook or Twitter account.

Follow these tips and stay safe!

Disclosure: The Digital Joneses Project occasionally includes loaned gadgets and other assets. 

(Photo: subcircle)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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    1. That’s a good point. I doubt the risk is that high, but you can’t be sure. Indeed, I should’ve qualified that point with “don’t put really personal documents up there in the cloud” — which I actually don’t. Reflective of any organization run by humans, Google’s interpretation of “Don’t Be Evil” has evolved over the years. Moreover, the government sure as hell seems to have access to anything in the cloud. At least right now, technology’s complexity is ahead of our grasp.

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