Of everything that makes people nervous about the digital universe, the security issue is the most likely to have significant consequences—and the most likely to inspire fears far beyond the true risks. Knowledge is power, so BridgingApps has asked four of our tech pros to share what they know about digital security.
What You Probably Don’t Need to Worry About
Walter Prescher, Digital Navigator: Unlike what movies portray, there aren’t hackers sitting in dark rooms trying to break into your computer every day. Don’t buy into the fear. Hackers typically focus on large corporate data centers, and those corporations know how to handle security and damage control.
Alejandra Gonzalez, Digital Navigator: I’ve heard a lot of clients express fear that someone could hack into their computer and steal all of their private information. Not that this concern is unfounded, but it’s often exaggerated—and it keeps clients from accessing all the benefits of technology.
Amy Barry, Digital Marketing Lead: The pros of digital access far outweigh the cons. Using proper security precautions significantly lowers the risk of being hacked or scammed. Digital access makes life easier, saves time, and broadens your social connections.
What You Definitely Need to Know
Security Rule #1: Put Safety Before Speed
Amy Barry: When setting up accounts, always use proper security measures, especially unique, strong passwords—and update those passwords regularly. Also, take time to set up two-factor authentication (a security method that requires two identifiers before letting you access data) on platforms that offer it. It does require more time when logging in, but it’s worth it to avoid a hacking experience.
Walter Prescher: Most security concerns can be alleviated with a strong password that is changed every three to six months.
Security Rule #2: Think Before You Click (or Answer)
Walter Prescher: The biggest threat is people trying to trick you into providing your information through scams called phishing. And some basic awareness and application of common sense can thwart that.
Alejandra Gonzalez: Spam emails with bad links are getting a lot more complex, and they’re harder to identify now. Don’t follow a link unless you recognize the sender and the destination site—and double-check to make sure the destination address matches what’s written on the link.
Tara Rocha, Digital Learning Specialist: Scammers can be very convincing if they get a chance to talk to you directly. I routinely tell my senior clients not to answer on reflex—to let phone calls go to voicemail, or let people leave text messages. There is an iOS feature called “Live Voicemail” that transcribes voicemails as they are being left, which can be helpful for anyone who’s afraid of missing something by not answering in person. If the caller turns out to be someone they want to talk to, they can always pick up the phone as soon as they recognize who it is.
Security Rule #3: Think Before You Post, Especially on Public Platforms
Walter Prescher: You do need to understand that what you share on social media remains out there. Yes, you can delete items from your page, but if a friend shared your information it will remain out there for others to find.
Security Rule #4: Use Professionally Designed Security Software
Walter Prescher: While Windows now has its own antivirus program, you should still consider getting separate antivirus/security software. You also need a good malware search software to root out hostile programs that can exploit vulnerabilities on your computer. Professional internet security provides peace of mind.
Security Rule #5: Watch Your Accounts, and Trust the Pros
Amy Barry: I woke up one morning and I had received an email from PayPal about suspicious activity on my account. Initially I thought the email was a scam, but when I tried to log into my PayPal account, it was locked. Sometime the night before, my account had been hacked and the password changed. I called PayPal and was able to get the situation fixed.
Walter Prescher: Most companies will quickly detect data breaches and alert their account holders. If you get a data-breach notice through a company you interact with, stay calm; change your password(s); follow any additional instructions; and if the breach included financial information, keep an eye on your balances to make sure someone isn’t committing fraud.
In closing, Alejandra Gonzalez sums it up: “Information is the biggest aid for those who fear digital access. The more informed the client is of the real risks, the safer they feel and the better they know how to protect themselves.”