While most of the advice we offer on the Daily Shield focuses on protecting your personal space and finances, it’s easy to forget that some of the greatest security vulnerabilities can be found in a place you may spend much of your life – the workplace.
And with an endless stream of data and security breaches being traced back to bad decisions in the workplace, it could help you and your job if you pay a little more attention to workplace security and privacy.
With that in mind, here are a few simple ideas that can protect you and your co-workers in the year to come:
• Know the rules and follow the policies. Security policies sound like a pain, and in some workplaces they’re so long and complex they read like a text book for a law degree. But policies are there for a reason, and even if they’re poorly written or overly complex, you still need to pay attention to them. If properly implemented, they protect data, protect your workplace, and even protect your job.
• Be careful what you bring to work. One of the biggest threats in 2012 is BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. In spite of policies against them, many employees still bring their own smartphones, laptops, and tablets to work. Thumb drives are a particular source of security problems. If you use those devices to store work information or access corporate networks or systems, you risk exposing your workplace to all kinds of threats. If your employer doesn’t know what kinds of devices you’re using, and what kind of security precautions you’re taking, they’re almost defenseless against the risks your devices might pose.
• Keep your personal information hidden or out of the office. A study as far back as 2005 by the University of Michigan found that close to 70% of all identity thefts in the United States might originate in the workplace. Even if the report is only half right, that’s reason enough for you to guard any personal information you bring to the workplace. So hide any personal financial documentation, wallet, purse, personal devices and anything else a co-worker might grab an opportunity to snoop on.
• Be careful with social media. Many workplaces still don’t have clear rules about the use of social media in the workplace, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the risks. And apart from getting into trouble for checking your Facebook page too often at work, some of the biggest risks when using social networks at work include saying things that could get you or your employer into trouble, giving away corporate secrets or insider knowledge, or clicking on a malicious link that introduces malware into your workplace.
To avoid these dangers (1) stay off Facebook at work as much as possible, (2) if you do use Facebook or Twitter, mind what you say – about yourself, your workplace, your colleagues, and your job, (3) be very careful what you click on.
• Protect your passwords. If your workplace has guidelines or policies on the proper use of passwords, follow them. The rules are there because they work. If your workplace doesn’t have any clear rules, then use common sense. Use long and complex passwords, change passwords often, don’t share them with others, and be wary of calls or emails claiming to be from a colleague and requesting your password.
• Challenge strangers. One of the most common attacks on the workplace is the walk-in, where a complete stranger will simply walk into the business, perhaps posing as a customer, repair technician, or even a janitor, and steal information. If you come across a stranger in your office, don’t simply ignore them. Offer to help them, ask them who are and what they’re looking for, and if they seem suspicious, notify security or your colleagues.
• Think privacy. The root of good security is a respect for privacy. As a consumer you value your privacy and expect it to be respected and protected. So why not expect that for others. If you come across the personal information of others, give it the respect it deserves. Good security flows from a respect and passion for privacy, and if it’s second nature, security breaches are less likely to happen.
• Be an advocate. If you truly believe in security and privacy, and believe that it makes a difference, then speak up. Become a privacy advocate in your workplace. Encourage co-workers to take security and privacy seriously, and if there are no security guidelines or policies in place already, offer to work with your employer to create share, and apply them.
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