THE AGE OF PROTECTION

THE AGE OF PROTECTION

By Kelley Lum

After ten years leading application security initiatives in everything from startups to government organizations to finance, Kelley is now a security engineer at Tumblr. She also teaches as an adjunct professor teaching application security at NYU when she's not flying a Piper Cherokee.

 

The Internet has always been a riotous territory, and the breakneck speed at which technology is advancing has done little to change this. The minutiae of our lives are increasingly being put online. In the United States alone, around 182 million people own smartphones. We wear devices that monitor our exercise and sleep habits, outfit our homes with Internet-connected thermostats and home security devices, and share our thoughts and opinions via social media. With so much of our selves online, it’s natural to want to regain control of one’s privacy. Countless companies have sought to fill the demand for consumer privacy. 

 

A search through the iOS App Store turns up an overabundance of messaging apps geared towards private communications. Companies like FreedomPop and Blackphone have emerged offering out-of-the-box devices for secure mobile communications. 

 

In our attempts to maintain control over our digital lives, it is often difficult to separate truth from hype. Stories of government surveillance, corporate data breaches, and even airplane hacking have become commonplace in the news. When it seems like a threat is lurking around every corner, the challenge of staying secure becomes so overwhelming at times that it becomes tempting to simply cross one’s fingers and hope for the best.

 

Despite the tales of gloom and doom, there is often a common theme—the human element. According to one study by IBM, a majority of security breaches are a result of human error. Fortunately, there are a handful of basics that, if followed, help immensely to keep you safe.

 

USE UNIQUE, STRONG PASSWORDS

That password that you use everywhere is only as secure as the weakest website. Fortunately, tools like LastPass and 1Password make it easy to generate a secure, unique password for every site you visit.

 

ENABLE TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION

Two factor—where you enter a second, temporary password—is becoming widely supported and can help protect you in case your main password is compromised. Even social media sites like Tumblr and Twitter support it.

 

DON’T CLICK LINKS OR OPEN FILES THAT YOU DON’T TRUST. 

You know deep down that you didn’t really win a rose gold Apple Watch.

 

STAY SAFE ON PUBLIC NETWORKS

Not everyone at the coffee shop is there to enjoy the cold brew; keep in mind that attackers may try to eavesdrop on what you’re sending and receiving. Check the lock in the corner of your browser’s URL bar—is there a green lock indicating an encrypted connection? If not, do NOT log in. 

 

Despite the growing trend to put increasing amounts of ourselves online, we can still regain some control by properly safeguarding our accounts and data. Making conscious decisions about the information you choose to share (consider using a throwaway email account like Mailinator if you’re not ready to fully commit to linking yourself to a site) can go a long way in keeping your peace of mind and your data on lock. //