Today’s workforce is undeniably mobile. Employees like the flexibility to work from anywhere while keeping a direct line to goings-on at the office. At the same time, IT workers, many of whom have an information security masters degree or some kind of network security certification, worry about protecting proprietary data when employees are on the go. Whether you’re using a company-issued device or your company has a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, you have a fiduciary responsibility to protect your employer’s data. Follow these crucial tips to keep data safe on your laptop or mobile device.
Laptops and Data Security
On October 31, 2012, a NASA employee left a laptop in a locked car and returned to find it stolen. The laptop contained the personally identifiable data of 10,000 NASA employees and contractors. It also stored critical NASA documents.
If the federal government is at risk for data theft, then so are private companies. These steps will help to ensure the security of your laptop.
- Utilize a strong password. Strong passwords contain more than eight characters, have random symbols or numbers in between characters and include both upper and lower case letters. Try to avoid using important dates that are easy to guess, such as your birthday or anniversary date, as part of a password. Remember, a strong password doesn’t make your laptop invulnerable. Hackers have plenty of available software options that can bypass password protection to obtain your data.
- Choose cloud-based apps when possible. For example, utilize a webmail app instead of downloading e-mails to an application on your laptop. Your business e-mails will be stored online instead of being stored on your laptop.
- Use disk encryption software. For Windows, try an open-source encryption program. On a Mac, open “System Preferences,” choose “Security & Privacy” and utilize FireVault encryption.
- Download some laptop tracking software. If your laptop is lost or stolen, then a laptop tracking application can help you, your company and law enforcement track it down.
- Wipe your hard drive when you ditch your laptop. If you’re using your own laptop for work and you upgrade to a new system, then you need to make sure that your hard drive is free of data before you discard, sell or recycle your laptop.
Securing Data on Your Mobile Device
Mobile devices are often thought to be more secure than PCs, but that assumption doesn’t always hold true. For example, Symantec found that mobile device hacking increased 93 percent in 2011 alone. The National Cyber Security Alliance found that just 36 percent of Americans have installed security software or apps on their mobile devices. Malware could attack not only your mobile device but also any other device on your network.
While Android seems to be the operating system most vulnerable to attack, don’t assume that your iOS device or your BlackBerry is safe. In addition to setting a strong password, use these strategies to protect data on your smartphone or tablet:
- Avoid assuming that your Web browser is safe. Researchers from Georgia Tech found that 90 percent of all mobile Web traffic takes place over browsers that fail basic security tests. Your browser bar on your mobile device doesn’t have the lock icon or the “https” configuration that shows that you’re looking at a secure site.
- Be careful about phishing. Georgia Tech also found that mobile users are three times more likely to access phishing sites than desktop users. Don’t click on incoming pop-ups or links. Also, if you receive an e-mail from a company, then type the company’s Web address into your browser instead of clicking the link in the message.
- Check the security of your apps. Before downloading an app, check to see that it encrypts data that it stores. If it’s storing data on an SD card, then someone can remove the card and read unencrypted data on another device.
- Know how to use your security features. Make sure that you know how to remotely lock or wipe your mobile device data if your device is lost or stolen.