5 Routine Ways Your Family Risks Its Privacy Every Day

shutterstock_261636620It’s all gray now. Life that is. What used to be black and white and nicely compartmentalized is now a thousand shades of gray. We no longer are techie types or old school; Facebook users or in-person folks, we are all, young and old, online to some degree. Digital has become the cultural expectation. And with that expectation, has come the subtle nudging of what we once considered immovable lines.

Think about it: What used to be taboo to share online such as photos and videos of kids, family vacations, and real-time major life events are now shared openly and with little thought to the potential impact on privacy. And how did you do over Christmas? Did you know where that credit card number landed for every, single purchase?

If you haven’t already, it’s likely, you will experience some personal privacy breach be it a hacked social channels, a stolen or hacked smartphone, or credit card theft. Living connected—with all its benefits—opens your family up to a world of privacy issues that often come to a head in subtle ways that can be devastating.

For families, privacy measures become even more urgent simply because your risk is multiplied by the number of users in your home. Do you have two kids with devices? Your personal risk just increased two times. Six kids? Six times the risk, and so on.

The facts:

• More than 100 advertising networks and major social media networks share some user data. (Yahoo Finance, Feb. 2012)

• 90% of Internet of Things (IoT) devices collect at least one piece of personal information via the device, app, or cloud service. (HP study, July 2014)

• 70% of IoT devices contain a vulnerability that allows an attacker to discover valid user accounts. (HP study, July 2014)

• 91% percent of American adults feel consumers have lost control of personal data that is collected, and 55% of American adults are willing to share some personal data to use a service for free. (Pew Research, 2014)shutterstock_229675606

• 4 million smartphones are lost, and 3.1 million are stolen, and only 7% use encryption or other security protection and only 8% install software that can help a user find a lost phone. (Consumer Reports National Research Center, 2014)

• Android mobile malware almost tripled in 2012-13, and only 14% of mobile devices had anti-virus software installed. (McAfee Labs, 2014, Consumer Reports National Research Center, 2014, respectively)

Scary huh?  Here’s a list of fairly easy things you can do in the next 5 minutes to reign in your private data and that of your family.

Here are five common privacy gaps your family may have right now. And, five ways to plug them up!

  1. Leak: Unsecured devices.
    Hackers and phishers make it their job to break into unsecured computers, tablets, even game systems. 
    Solution: Pay attention to software and hardware updates. Make sure all of your devices including computers tablets and smartphones are protected with comprehensive security software. Always update your apps and operating systems when new security updates are released. If your phone has an update, you will likely get a push notification on your phone or have an alert sign on your settings icon.
  1. Leak: Poorly protected smartphones.
    Risk: Theft, hackers, and sensitive content getting out and shared.
    Lock down your smartphone. Enable security features on your mobile device such as a) remote wipe encryption b) remote device lock and c) find my phone. Both Apple, Android and Windows phones all have tracking, remote lock and remote wipe integrated into their operating systems. However, you must take a few minutes and enable them. To secure Apple devices (including laptops), go to the iCloud login, for Android phones, go to Google Play website and click “devices.” Tracking in a Windows phone can be configured in Settings and then tracked and locked via the Windows Phone website. While you are locking down your smartphone, shut off all geolocation tracking permissions in your settings.
  1. Leak: Social Media Sites
    Home burglary, assault, stalkers, identity theft.
    Share with care. Analyze and restrict the information you post on social media sites and apps that request personal information to ensure you are not providing more personal data than necessary. Go through all social profiles and delete email addresses, phone numbers, birth date and any reference to where you live. Mark your profile to “private” and go to your friends list to delete any “friends” you don’t recognize. To find what apps you’ve given permissions to access your Facebook profile, go into Settings (to the right of the gear icon), when the menu drops down, click on Apps to view all the apps you’ve allowed to see your personal information. If you don’t use the app anymore, delete it. You can do the same thing on Twitter easily via your Settings, which can be accessed by clicking on your Profile Picture in the top right of your top nav bar. A drop down menu will show your Settings option. Once clicked, you can revoke any app access you don’t use.
  1. Leak: Poor Personal Computer Habits
    Risk: Personal data leaks, identity theft, fraud, financial theft.
    Close as you go. Once you finish using an account or browser log out. Social networks and apps will continue to share and track information as long as you keep them open. Use anonymous browsing sessions when possible. For basic instructions on how to browse anonymously, check out How-To Geek. Logging out also applies to apps and websites accessed via your mobile devices. Poor computer habits also include logging into public wifi (don’t do it).
  1. Leak: Casual Attitude
    We live in a connected culture. Allowing a family environment ignores digital safety puts all family data at risk. 
    Routine, family-wide privacy checks. Now that you’ve cleaned up your data landscape rally the troops and make sure everyone in the family is on board and equally secure. Make it fun but make frequent privacy checks mandatory in your family.National Data Privacy Day is January 28. Jump into the conversation here and get some great tips.



Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).

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