There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of months about the increase of domestic surveillance and the loosening of the laws surrounding it. By now you’ve undoubtedly read at least a few articles that talk about two-factor authentication and encryption. We’re not going to rehash those tips here. Instead, we’re going to remind you about protective steps that are often overlooked. After all, while useful, encryption isn’t completely fail-proof!
Stay Up To Date
Most people know that even a rechargeable battery doesn’t last forever. Eventually, it loses its ability to hold a charge or be recharged altogether. This happens with age and use over time. The same is true for most computing devices. Computers fail to hold a charge; phone touch screens stop working; flash drives lose their readability. This is one reason why having multiple backups is a good idea. It’s also why it’s important to know about flash data recovery. This way, if your flash drive starts to lose its oomph, you won’t have to worry that your files are gone forever.
In addition to being able to recover your files, it is important to know how to permanently delete files from devices you plan to stop using. If you’ve seen any news broadcasts at all over the last year or so, you’ve undoubtedly heard about device “bleaching”. This is a process by which a device or drive is irreparably replaced so that it can’t be recovered. Even if you plan on dumping old tech in the trash or physically destroying it, it’s good to do this first. That way you won’t have to worry about any of your proprietary data falling into the wrong hands.
Everybody knows that they shouldn’t use just one universal password or username for every account. What you might not know is that it is also important to change this information regularly–especially your passwords. Make it a habit to change all of your passwords every month or so–three months at the longest. This way even if, somehow, someone did manage to get a hold of your credentials they likely wouldn’t still be relevant. Make sure anybody you hire to help you with your project or who has access to data (especially remotely) does the same.
There is a great scene in NCIS where Abby and McGee are freaking out because a virus is being downloaded into their systems and, inspite of their combined technical abilities none of the super fancy hacker-esque techniques they try seem to be working. Then, unexpectedly everything goes blank and the hacked invasion/download stops…not because of anything technically advanced but because Gibbs simply unplugged the machine. Sometimes simple is best. If you’re working on something proprietary and you’re worried about someone stealing or corrupting your work, only connect to the web or the cloud when you absolutely have to. If you are not connected to the system, the system can’t be used against you, right?
Eschew the Internet of Things
Everyday devices like Amazon’s Alexa get more and more popular. We like them because they make life a little bit more convenient. And because they seem super cool and like we’re living in Star Trek. Everyday technology experts figure out how to connect more devices to the web and how to make AI seem more relatable. And it’s awesome but can also be dangerous. Remember: every device that connects to the web is, somehow, hackable. This means that surrounding yourself with devices that are always listening and recording isn’t a great idea when you’re trying to protect your ideas and your work. Nobody is suggesting that you only work in a signal proof bunker, of course. We are, however, suggesting that you be careful about which devices you invite into your working space.
Note: It’s also a good idea to disable the microphone on your phone or to only allow it to be used when you are making a call and not by any of your other apps.
Host Your Own Email
Free email through G-suite, Microsoft, etc. is nice but ultimately it is less safe than email you host on your own servers and that you encrypt. If you aren’t technically savvy or cash-flush enough to host your own server locally, you can host it through your web hosting provider. Most hosting providers have built in email hosting. Do some research and choose a provider that includes encryption and extra safety measures to keep your communications safe from prying eyes.
Keeping your company’s proprietary data safe is a multi-step multi-layer process. In addition to the big tips you’ve been reading about recently, use the tips we’ve provided here to be as safe as possible.