From the food we eat to the people we speak with, it’s apparent that communication technology has made its way into just about every important aspect of our lives.. What may be less apparent are the many ways technology — and the information we put out into the world every day — can be a threat to your relationships, job, bank account and credit report.
Elizabeth Cameron, professor of business administration, is a licensed attorney and business consultant who continues to consult with clients so she can bring real life examples into her law, cybersecurity and management classes at Alma College. Every day in her class, she tells young people that it’s not just their grandparents who need to be careful using technology — you can be a victim, too. She offered five tips to clean up your “online hygiene,” in order to stay safe and utilize technology to its fullest advantage.
Really. Do it. Make a better password.
Yes, Elizabeth says, there are still people using “password” as their password for social media, online bank accounts and e-mail addresses. If that’s you, it’s time to change your habits. Hackers are more skilled than ever at cracking combinations, and when you use a common password, you’re making it way too easy for them. Consider a string of symbols, letters, numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters that may be meaningful to you, but don’t make sense for others. One suggestion might be: I8@joes4the2ndtimethisweek.
Get smarter about social media
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram aren’t simply communication tools anymore. They are the world’s window into your life. Not only are your friends and family checking in on what you’re posting, but employers (current and future) and co-workers are, as well. Elizabeth suggests highlighting the good things you’re doing, like volunteer work, and saving your selfies, memes and jokes for the next time you’re together with friends. Remember, nothing is ever permanently deleted.
Remember that anyone can create content online and say that they are someone they aren’t. With that in mind, don’t believe everything that you read, watch or listen to — especially if it’s the kind of content designed to provoke an emotional response. Elizabeth suggests finding out who the source is, who produced the content and where they got their information. There is value in making you feel certain ways about various topics — don’t let yourself be manipulated.
‘More valuable than oil’
For centuries, whenever someone wanted to make a point about the value of a good, they could point toward the cost of oil. Nowadays, Elizabeth says, the information that you put out into the world every day — from the Instagram post you tagged yourself in at Starbucks to the review you left for the car wash on Google — is being monetized. She went as far as to say it’s “more valuable than oil.” So, why give it away for free? Be careful about sharing what you’re doing and where you’ve been.
‘Think twice, click once’
Phishing emails are more common than ever and scammers are very sophisticated about getting you to make a click you’re not supposed to. Even if it seems plausible that your co-worker is in need of some fast cash, Elizabeth says, it’s best to take every link online with a degree of suspicion. “Think twice, click once” is the advice she gives when it comes to interacting with people in situations outside of the norm.