Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Two Certainties for the New Year!

Do you run a small business? An international conglomerate?
A not-for-profit? A Hospital? A manufacturing plant?

Whatever you do, there are two certainties you are facing in the New Year. You will depend more than ever on computers and social media, AND you face a greater than ever chance that someone will “hack” into your business or organization and do major damage to your reputation and your bottom line.

Bob Sullivan writes the Red Tape Chronicles for MSNBC.Com (http://redtape.msnbc.com/2010/12/ten-things-web-users-should-fear-in-2011.html) and he has identified ten things “web users should fear” in the New Year.

I recommend you read his warnings. But let me just touch on a few of his concerns with examples from our own clients.

So many young business people are bringing their social media practices to their work world and sometimes sharing way too much about their work and personal lives with their so-called friends on sites like Facebook and Foursquare. Sullivan warns that hackers will turn stalkers and use these sites to take advantage of you.

We work with a very talented and brilliant consultant who spent a number of years working his way up the corporate ladder of one of America’s best companies. He married late and had his first baby recently. He started his own consulting business and bought in to the “networking” idea. His new business “took off” and so did he. He was flying here and there weekly. In the early days, he posted on more than one social networking site that he was off to New York to meet a new client and how long he was going to be gone.

After watching this for a few weeks, I took a deep breath and called him and offered a “father’s perspective” as well as that of a frequent flier, too. I asked him if he was not at all concerned about announcing to the world when he was going to be gone and his wife and new baby were going to be home alone?

He scaled back his “sharing.”

Sullivan confirmed a great concern I have about “cloud computing.” If hackers and industrial spies and WikiLeaks can get in to government websites, major banking sites, and even disrupt a nuclear power plant – all facilities with what you would think was rock solid computer security – how easy will it be for your digital files to be compromised when you start keeping them and working on them on leased computer space on someone else’s servers?

And Sullivan raised another issue. What if your most sensitive documents are stored on someone else’s “cloud” and they raise the monthly rent, or you get behind in making your monthly lease payment, and all of a sudden they cut off your access to your own data? Ouch!

And off course, with the addition of all kinds of computer type programs on your mobile phones and devices in your homes, such as TV’s and even kitchen appliances, there will be “bad guys” looking for ways to compromise all those devices and take advantage of you.

I’m not suggesting we stop technological advances. I am suggesting we all use common sense and be very careful.

Horse thieves quit stealing horses after cars were invented and began stealing cars. Robbers gave up stopping stage coaches and began robbing trains. With each technological advancement there are people looking for ways to take advantage.

The best way to protect your digital data and important documents and sensitive communication is to not put them where anyone can get to them … or don’t write them down at all. So what if you have to pick up the phone or walk to the next cubicle to tell someone something sensitive. Sure it would be so much easier to send an e-mail or a Tweet.

Just remember, when you write something down, always assume that someone other than the intended recipient will see it, sooner than later.

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