When you consider the sheer volume of personal information available about us online, either voluntarily or not, it does not take a lot to paint a complete picture of an individual and what composes their life. Social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are a goldmine of individual pieces of information that, when aggregated together, share far more detail than the individual ever intended. Combined with publicly available information and the occasional data breach, your identity is ripe for the picking and can overwhelmingly convince you to fall for scams like phishing. Spring cleaning should extend to your online presence.
Are we living “Digitally Vicarious”? It seems that relevance is achieved through multiple online profiles with many of our friends, family, and colleagues only knowing us through our electronic selves. We spend too much time managing our virtual existence rather than our physical one, and nearly always at the cost of what makes us human. Living online should only be complimentary rather than seen as a replacement. It becomes all too easy to hide behind avatars and projected perfection when the true beauty of life is the self with the electronic noise filtered. Experience life in analogue, not in digital.
With the news that Apple no longer supports upgrades on the iPhone 5, we are reminded of forced obsolescence. At one time, you could use a product as long as it worked, often decades of faithful service. Appliances that lasted 20 years with maintenance are replaced by models that rarely last beyond 5. Limited warranties cover a year or so; expensive extended plans cover even less. We are forced to update costly electronics every few years when vendors discontinue support. The fear of vulnerable, unsupported operating systems drives the market. At least we can recycle them; just do so securely.
At one time, business promotion was through physical signage. Next came The Yellow Pages, websites, and now you must have a social media presence and be mobile-friendly. You are forced to differentiate and convince clients to spend their money with you. Unlike physical sign replacement, protection of your online presence is critical to success. When was the last time you checked the security of your social media presence? Promotion is important but one must not advertise the exposure of sensitive data. Use strong multi-factor authentication and review your privacy settings every time these sites and applications are updated and change.
Recently, a new cyber threat known as “Fireball” has surfaced. While perhaps not malware in the traditional sense we expect, the potential threat is immense when leveraged maliciously. Fireball seemingly manipulates the victim computer in the interest of generating ad revenue but these modifications, while annoying, may lead to far more sinister behaviour in the future leveraging backdoors. Imagine the potential personal and corporate data harvesting and capability of launching large-scale attacks. Immediately seek and remove freeware on personal and business computers, conduct thorough threat scans, and block network traffic to the known command and control servers as a start.
Aggregating information from online sources allows people you would rather know very little about you achieve the opposite. With several Social Media and email accounts coupled with other sources of information like eBay, there is likely more of you in cyberspace than you would like. Combining details from sites like LinkedIn and Facebook along with Google searches, a complete stranger can come to know you better than your own family. Be selective about what you share online and understand the size of your cyber footprint. Delete anything that is not absolutely necessary; not a perfect solution, but a good start.
There is no bigger red flag for a business than when they are constantly seeking new people. If the majority of those are contractors, the flag doubles in size. The market does not allow growth without significant projects to justify the expansion. Unless the organisation has won large deals, the likely cause is turnover. Companies promote their ability to attract and retain quality people and while they succeed with attraction, they struggle with retention. Gaining a reputation as a “churn and burn” workplace drives clients to follow suit and stay away. Do not underestimate your clients’ loyalty to your staff.