Information Security: Why Should You Care?
If you don’t even want your current significant other to have access to your mobile phone via a simple 4-digit passcode, why would you allow a hacker to have that information? Information security isn’t just about protecting your mobile phone from falling into the wrong hands, it’s also about insuring your photos, social media accounts, and even your “anonymous” Reddit comments are kept from being spread all over the internet without your warning. Most people have the mentality that once they put something out onto the internet, it will be lost forever in the mass entanglement of comments, posts, and pages; in reality, you leave a cyber-trail of breadcrumbs on every page you visit. In order to keep your data and information private, you need to take a number of preventative actions. Many of these preventative resources can be easily found via a Google search, however I’ve listed a few of them below.
UT Information Security Resources
DUO Two Factor Authentication
When accessing private information online regarding your financial information, tax documents, or the UT VPN (Virtual Private Network), UT provides a service known as “two-factor authentication.” Essentially, you already use one form of authentication to log into your account (your username/password), since those can be relatively easy to hack into UT has required all of its users to create a second form of authentication in order to view private information online. With a service called “DUO” all you have to do is click on a button in an app on your smartphone to securely log into your bank information on UT’s website. If for some reason your account gets hacked, UT has the ability to then quickly and easily lock your account until you verify your identity via other means.
“The University of Texas at Austin Information Security Office created STACHE to provide secure backup of sensitive data, such as encryption keys, passwords, passphrases, and personal identification numbers. The creator of the entry in Stache can share the contents of the entry with other individuals” (https://wikis.utexas.edu/x/OI0zAQ). Stache can be used for an endless amount of use-cases requiring secure, encrypted data transfer. Not many students know about this resource as it is primarily used internally at UT to send temporary password information to new hires, however, I can see this resource being very useful to many student groups in the process of transferring their data down to a new generation of officers, for example.
Protecting Your Information Online
Steps you should take in order to keep your data secure:
- Lock down your privacy settings on your social media accounts to only allow your intended audience to view your information. The Center for Identity at UT has written a great article on how you can lock down your information on a variety of social media sites: https://identity.utexas.edu/everyone/how-to-manage-your-social-media-privacy-settings.
- Use multiple, strong passwords – or use a secure, encrypted password manager to log into your accounts online. (Source: https://lastpass.com/).
- Secure your home wireless network via encryption, firewalls, and router filtering. (Source: https://identity.utexas.edu/everyone/securing-your-home-network).
- Evaluate how you’re protecting your online information on a yearly to monthly basis. Developing good habits for online behavior is a challenging skill to learn and maintain if you were not aware of the risks of keeping your data secure in the past. (Source: https://identity.utexas.edu/id-perspectives/new-years-resolutions-for-privacy).
Web Browser AdBlock
One of the quickest ways hackers can acquire private information and passwords is via malicious programs with key-loggers and internet pop-ups. A simple and light-weight way to combat these data breaches is by installing an adblock extension to your web browser. “AdBlock requires no personal information to run, and doesn’t monitor your browsing.”
Desktop Anti-Virus (Avast)
In general, an anti-virus provides a nice overlapping blanket for the overall health and security of your computer’s data. However, using the wrong anti-virus (such as Norton) can be more detrimental to your information security than not having an anti-virus program at all. Choose your anti-virus programs wisely and carefully look into the settings you agree to during the program’s initial setup process.