Posted by Tee Morris
Think of the last time you were in a public place—an airport, a coffee shop, or standing in line at the grocery store—and a complete stranger begins having a conversation with someone on their mobile phone. Suddenly, the tenor of the phone calls changes with far too much volume and personal details being shared.
For an identity thief, this indiscretion is a welcomed opportunity.
From Above the Law, a blog covering the realities and business side of the legal profession, comes a story straight from the “Oh come on, you have GOT to be kidding me!” file involving a professional who should know something about the importance of sensitive data. On an Acela train between D.C. and New York, this managing partner of a prominent law firm called an up-and-coming lawyer to present them with a potential job offer. The terms of the offer were as follows:
- Base compensation: $300K in the first year.
- Additional compensation: $50K upon bringing in $1MM; 15 percent of anything over $1MM.
- Equity: Possible equity in the partnership after one year.
The partner then proceeded to call his firm’s Human Resources department, and provided his associate:
- The potential lawyer’s full name
- Home address
- Proper authorization to start a background check.
All these details were overheard by a full-to-capacity Acela express train.
Antivirus software packages and privacy settings applied on your social media outlets, but we as consumers and users of modern conveniences can still do better. We are the best line of defense against hackers and identity thieves. There is still plenty that we as digital immigrants can do:
- Limit the amount of information shared on social networks. Use common sense. Think about what information you want to share, who you are sharing it with, and always assume that others outside of your protective network are going to see it too. Then decide if you want to post it.
- Avoid private discussions in public places. Again, there is no “private” in public places. Voices carry; and when sharing PII during a phone call, your voice carries a lot more than just words.
- Avoid sharing PII on public Wi-Fi networks. As seen in this editorial from CNN Money, many open networks are unsecure. Hackers can easily gain access to your computer this way and mine it for a variety of data. Avoid banking or other financial transactions when using public Wi-Fi networks.
- Also keep your awareness up when surfing the Internet when in public places. Just as people can inadvertently listen in on a phone call, they can also watch your laptop screen from a distance.
- Share with your friends and business associates what is and isn’t permissible to share in public. While you can do a lot to protect yourself online and in the real world, you should also advise your friends, family, and co-workers what you deem as “private.” If they don’t know, what may be perceived as a harmless photo on Facebook or a detail shared over the phone could cross a boundary or two.
When it comes to protecting Personally Identifiable Information (PII), we all need to continue to be vigilant about monitoring and protecting our personal data, and sometimes the best way to be vigilant is to take a good, hard look at what we are making public knowledge. A little common sense and taking a moment to consider how much you are sharing with the public can go a long way in protecting yourself and your identity.