The value of data is rising, and so are major hacking incidents. We’ve seen a steady parade of data breaches, from Anthem to Yahoo and JP Morgan Chase to Target. Companies used take a reputation hit from data breaches, but they’re becoming so common that people are learning to take them for granted. Just last week, regulators hit Uber with a $148 million fine for hiding a data breach. Facebook just admitted a massive hack — and that’s on top of the data they’ve voluntarily shared or sold. These stories aren’t getting much media coverage — they’re part of the new normal.
In the new economy, data is digital gold. It’s obvious when we look at tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. They have grown fabulously rich by collecting and mining data. It’s cheap to collect and store data, and who knows what uses we might find for it in the future. The benefits are clear. There are also risks — every database can be easily copied, and any victim of identity theft can tell you that stolen data can cause real harm.
As a business owner, I am responsible for protecting the information of my employees, investors, and partners. I don’t give out personal data unless it’s necessary, and I make sure to restrict access to sensitive databases to those who need it. Amongst best practices we utilize, my team uses different passwords as well as 2-factor-authentication (2FA) for each online account.
One of the most common attacks is called spear phishing. A spear phish attack uses a seemingly legitimate message (usually a text message or email) to get you to open an attachment or click a link. Something as small and innocent as clicking the wrong link can be enough to expose your computer, smartphone, or even your whole network. Often, hackers’ first move after a successful spear phish attack is to use your hacked email to send a wave of new spear phish attacks to everybody in your address book. That’s where we all need to be careful about what we open and what we click. At Alliance, basic education and awareness has kept us safe.
The key to data security is to treat it like hygiene. Do all the best practices — good passwords, 2FA, don’t share sensitive info if you don’t need to, and be careful about opening attachments or links if they seem even slightly sketchy. Check your credit report at least once a year to make sure nobody is using your information. And, teach your family, friends, and colleagues to do the same. With all the money involved, we can’t stop hackers entirely, but we can definitely reduce exposure.