Reduction of Gmail Spam

In the News  

The occurrence of email spam continues. In Gmail is now blocking 100 million extra spam messages every day with AI, James Vincent at TheVerge discusses how Gmail is using artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce the number of spam emails sent to its user base. Vincent explains that the use of TensorFlow has helped Gmail identify and block more than 100 million more spam messages a day than previously possible. Vincent elaborates that AI helps to combat the variety of spam attacks occurring daily.  

Our Take  

Spam is a constant concern for both companies and individuals. With so much communication and so many transactions happening digitally, spam can not only cause additional complications but potentially pose security threats. While it is great that spam email is being blocked at record rates, some spam does get through these preventatives technologies and can pose risks to privacy of information and finances. Knowing how to identify an email scam is vital in avoiding the dangers of phishing attacks. With the addition of AI technologies to block more spam, there is potential for a future free of spam. Though this future is ideal, we are not there yet, and precautions are essential to protecting your information and all of your online accounts. 

Recommendations  

How can you protect your personal and financial information from email spam?   

  • Understand the risks of putting your personal information into the world, and only share what you have to     
  • Use safe password practices, and take advantage of Multi-factor Authentication where possible     
  • Avoid clicking directly on links, whether in email or social media – always search through your search engine to verify legitimacy and find the appropriate site      
  • Refrain from opening suspicious attachments     
  • Be mindful of your emails; always check the date, subject line, and recipients to confirm that you are reading and using the correct email  
  • Check your email, financial accounts, and credit reports regularly for abnormal activities    
  • Stay up to date on the news regarding recent fraud and phishing attacks to see if you may have been affected 

Securing the Healthcare Sector

In the News  

Cybersecurity threats begin to hit new sectors with increased frequency. In As threats proliferate, so do new tools for protecting medical devices and hospitals, Jonathan Sheiber at TechCrunch discusses the potential security threats involving medical technologies. Sheiber states that the FDA now requires such devices/technologies to have some security measures and that new startups such as MedCrypt are helping make this a reality through encryption. Sheiber stresses the overall importance of an increase in healthcare cybersecurity initiatives. 

Our Take  

Medical and health records are some of the most important and sensitive forms of personal data available. As our society moves towards a more digital and technologically driven health sector, the threats posed to this data continue to increase. Medical records can contain Social Security Numbers, financial information, or just general information about your specific health, all of which do not need to be shared with the world. Additionally, as medical technology becomes more automated and integrated into the human body, the need for securing medical devices becomes a direct necessity for protecting the physical wellbeing of individuals. For sector that require the use and storage of highly sensitive information, encryption and security features must be required to a high standard to withstand current and future cybersecurity threats.  

Recommendations  

How can you protect your sensitive personal information as technology increases?   

  • Understand the risks of putting your personal information into the world, and only share what you have to     
  • Use safe password practices, and take advantage of Multi-factor Authentication where possible  
  • Stay up to date on the news regarding recent fraud attacks and data breaches to see if you may have been affected 

Unsending Facebook Messages

In the News  

Are your online actions still permanent actions? In Facebook now let’s everyone unsend messages for 10 minutes, Josh Constine at TechCrunch discusses how Facebook has now made it possible for users to delete their sent messages within a 10-minute time frame using the “Remove for everyone” tool. Constine explains that this feature has rolled out in part because of Mark Zuckerberg’s previously deleted messages with other Facebook executives.  

Our Take  

Although Facebook’s new unsend feature allows you to delete messages after they were sent and potentially even after they have been read, one should still exercise caution when sending content through digital messaging platforms. As with other forms of social media where content is only available for a short window of time, users get crafty and use methods such as screenshots to preserve evidence of communication and its contents. This feature does present the issue of preserving documentation as seen in the case of Zuckerberg’s messages. If individuals can delete their messages, there is less transparency around what conversations took place and what was discussed within such conversations. While this may not be a big concern for the standard social media user who messages their friends and family, this could cause issues with more professional forms of communication. When in doubt, utilize more permanent forms of communication is preserving records is of importance to you.  

Recommendations  

How can you protect the privacy of your personal information on social media?   

  • Understand the risks of putting your personal information into the world, and only share what you have to   
  • Be aware of default settings on social media platforms that automatically back up photos, files, messages, and other potentially sensitive information to the Cloud. Use privacy settings when they are available   
  • Use safe password practices, and take advantage of Multi-factor Authentication where possible    
  • Know your rights when it comes to data use and storage  
  • Refrain from sharing highly sensitive information through messaging apps and services

WhatsApp Authentication

In the News  

Internal iPhone apps are getting more secure. In WhatsApp can now be locked using Face ID or Touch ID, Jon Porter at The Verge discusses the ability for WhatsApp users to access their apps utilizing iPhone biometric authentication methods. Porter does explain that the user must manually enable this privacy option. However, Porter also states that by receiving certain notifications, one can access the app without biometric authentication. 

Our Take  

An increased use of biometric authentication helps to ensure that only specific individuals have access to information with less risk of identity theft. It is much more difficult for an attacker to gain access to your account by stealing your password as opposed to having to steal your fingerprint. Overall, this new integration of biometric authentication protects the personal information stored within specific apps and can serve as additional protection to securing your data. However, it is still important to be mindful of what you are sharing through online messaging apps and how much information you are sharing. Even with additional security measures, the still risk of data exposure and you should always aim to reduce the damage that such exposure can cause on your own life. 

Recommendations  

How can you protect your personal and financial information while using phone apps?   

  • Understand the risks of putting your personal information into the world, and only share what you have to 
  • Be aware of default settings on social media platforms that automatically back up photos, files, and other potentially sensitive information to the Cloud. Use privacy settings when they are available   
  • Use safe password practices, and take advantage of Multi-factor Authentication where possible    
  • Know your rights when it comes to data use and storage  
  • Refrain from sharing highly sensitive information through messaging apps and services 

No More FaceTime Eavesdropping

In the News  

Last week’s FaceTime controversy has not been resolved. In Apple fixes Facetime eavesdrop bug, with software update incoming, Zack Whittaker at TechCrunch reports that Apple has resolved the security flaw which allowed for individuals to listen in on conversations before a user answered a FaceTime request. Whittaker also states that Apple will be rolling out a new update in the coming weeks which will re-introduce Group FaceTime.  

Our Take  

FaceTime is an incredibly useful iPhone feature allowing individuals to have a more personal over the phone conversation through face-to-face contact. Typically, to maintain your privacy and information security, one should refrain from discussing highly sensitive topics such as health records or financial matters over FaceTime, but the eavesdropping bug identified last week puts your privacy even more at risk. The danger of the eavesdropping bug was that an individual could listen to a conversation without the other individual’s knowledge. This poses many issues regarding consent of information access, but also means that your conversation may be accessed by another individual and the information exposed by this may damage your data privacy. While it is good that Apple resolved this issue, stricter standards must be in place to make sure incidents such as this one do not happen in the future and put more user’s at risk. 

Recommendations  

How can you protect your personal and financial information from data breaches?   

Less Social Media…More Happiness

In the News  

How does the use of social media or lack of use impact happiness levels? In Facebook users who quit the social network for a month feel happier, Taylor Hatmaker at TechCrunch discusses a study finding that individuals who took a month off from using Facebook reported higher levels of happiness and used other social media platforms less as a result. Hatmakers notes that these individuals were still allowed to use Facebook’s messaging app, but that these same individuals felt less informed of current events with the break from utilizing Facebook. 

Our Take  

The results indicating that taking a break from social media may improve happiness levels do not imply that social media use makes one unhappy, but they may be able to provide insight into the apparent need for constantly sharing information and constant social media use. Our current society revolves around a constant pool of personal information being shared with the public. Many individuals feel pressure to conform to these norms and share more personal information on social media than they are comfortable with. These results may imply that reducing the need to share personal information on social media sites can do the opposite of harm your happiness and social contribution. This does not necessarily mean that any social media use is harming your level of happiness. It may just be good not to do not need to overshare on social media to feel a certain level of happiness, and that is a good sign for the privacy of your personal information.  

Recommendations  

How can you protect your personal information while using social media?   

  • Understand the risks of putting your personal information into the world, and only share what you have to    
  • Be aware of default settings on social media platforms that automatically back up photos, files, and other potentially sensitive information to the Cloud. Use privacy settings when they are available  
  • Refrain from sharing highly sensitive information over public networking sites or messaging apps 
  • Use safe password practices, and take advantage of Multi-factor Authentication where possible

IoT Products: Quality Matters

In the News  

Not all IoT products are created equally. In Cheap Internet of Things gadgets betray you even after you toss them in the trash, Devin Coldeway at TechCrunch discusses the security risks of purchasing, using, and discarding inexpensive and typically insecure Internet of Things (IoT) products. Coldeway explains that many inexpensive versions of smart devices such as home lighting systems or speakers provided are completely unencrypted, lack security measures, and can expose your personal data even after they are disposed of. Coldeway emphasizes the need for safe IoT device use and password protection on all devices. 

Our Take  

As demand for IoT products increase, it seems as though new IoT products hit the market constantly. While certain products such as brand name smart speakers or home security cameras are well known, many other inexpensive versions of similar products are also available on the market. You may be tempted to purchase an inexpensive IoT product thinking that the quality difference between a more inexpensive version and a brand name device are small. However, the price difference between these products often correlates with the security measures or privacy options available on such devices. IoT products can store copious amounts of personal information and risking the privacy of your data to save a few bucks is not worth it. Even if you do purchase a reputable IoT product, make sure to enable all possible privacy settings, encryption options, authentication possibilities, and secure the device with a strong and unique password to best protect your data. 

Recommendations  

How can you protect your personal information while using IoT devices?   

  • Understand the risks of putting your personal information into the world, and only share what you have to  
  • Purchase verified and reputable devices only 
  • Periodically check your applications for updates  
  • Utilize additional security/privacy measures and settings on apps, accounts, and platforms whenever possible  
  • Refrain from choosing passwords that contain a simple word or phrase–create strong passwords and change them periodically – the longer the better.  
  • Stay up to date on news covering recent breaches to see if you may have been affected 

The Security Risks of a Digital World

In the News  

In Digital Growth Exposes Firms to Complexity and Threats, Phil Muncaster at InfoSecurity magazine discusses new research exposing the reality of security risks in the increasing digital age. Muncaster explains that research found that almost all of those surveyed use sensitive information and over 85% of those surveyed reported to being vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. However, the research states that less than 50% of those surveyed are planning to spend more money and resources on cybersecurity initiatives.  

Our Take  

It is not surprising that the continued integration of technology and digital connections into the daily lives of all individuals and society as a whole has brought about increased concern for data security. However, digital growth means that more and more sensitive information is stored online or in the cloud. This means that the dangers of digital growth on both the data privacy of consumers and firms are ever increasing. The potential reality of data exposures and breaches threaten the identity and finances of both individuals and firms. Firms must make the security of their information and the information of their customers a priority and spend more resources or finances to protect their information. However, there is responsibility placed on consumers as well. Consumers must be aware of the reality of cyber threats and share their information online with consideration of this fact. The combination of consumer and firm action is the only way to ensure data privacy in the future. 

Recommendations  

How can you protect your information as companies transition to more digital processes?   

Facebook Will Pay for Your Data

In the News  

Facebook is in the hot seat for sketchy data use once again. In Facebook pays teens to install VPN that spies on them, Josh Constine at TechCrunch discusses how Facebook has been using Facebook Research VPN to gain complete access to a user’s device to siphon user data. Constine explains that a targeted Facebook demographic was compensated $20+ per month for utilizing this VPN, but that Apple removed this VPN for a violation of policy. 

Our Take  

The privacy of personal data is an issue of great importance and discussion these days. There have been so many incidents of data misuse and a general lack of transparency regarding data storage practices. While Facebook did compensate its users for utilizing the VPN, the purpose of the VPN itself infringes on many privacy issues. It is one thing for a company to request access to data on specific browsers or applications, but the access provided by using the Facebook Research VPN is all-encompassing and has no limit to what personal information is off limits. Additionally, this VPN takes advantage of an age demographic that is less likely to understand the risks of data exposure, privacy concerns, and may be more willing to accept small payments in exchange for total data access. Consumers need to be cognizant of the dangers of oversharing data and what may happen if this data falls into the wrong hands. 

Recommendations  

How can you protect yourself from data exposure and misuse?   

  • Understand the risks of putting your personal information into the world, and only share what you have to    
  • Be aware of default settings on mobile apps and turn on privacy settings as needed  
  • Use safe password practices, and take advantage of Multi-factor Authentication where possible    
  • Know your rights when it comes to data use and storage  
  • Refrain from sharing highly sensitive information through social media, messaging apps, or online services  
  • Stay up to date on recent data breaches and exposures to see if you have been impacted 

Facebook Proposes Increased Encryption

In the News

Facebooks is taking a step towards increased user privacy. Chaim Gartenberg at The Verge discusses Facebook’s move towards adding end-to-end encryption on Messenger and Instagram Direct. Gartenberg explains that this move aims to fuse communication between individuals using Messenger, Instagram Direct, and WhatsApp. Gartenberg elaborates that end-to-end encryption would create more privacy for user messaging by not allowing Facebook to access individual messages.  

Our Take  

Facebook has been in hot water recently for various instances of systemic data misuse. Specifically, the Cambridge Analytica incident brought increased attention to the issue of data privacy and transparency. While many of these scandals have sparked change in the data storage industry, Facebook still seemed to be lacking the change implementation that other platforms have since implemented. The decision for Facebook to establish end-to-end encryption on all three of its main messaging platforms is a step in the right direction for creating a digital environment more centered on consumer privacy and autonomy. While the move was produced in the company’s interest of increasing use of the platforms, consumers can take pride in knowing that their data will be made a bit more secure in the future. As with all forms of social media, be careful not to overshare your personal information and to keep your network to only those individuals whom you know and trust. 

Recommendations  

How can you protect your personal information while using social media and messaging apps?   

  • Understand the risks of putting your personal information into the world, and only share what you have to    
  • Be aware of default settings on social media platforms that automatically back up photos, files, and other potentially sensitive information to the Cloud. Use privacy settings when they are available   
  • Use safe password practices, and take advantage of Multi-factor Authentication where possible    
  • Know your rights when it comes to data use and storage  
  • Refrain from sharing highly sensitive information through messaging apps and services