Awareness : Newsletter Articles

Privacy in the Digital World

Is privacy dead? No, not by a long shot, but our concept of privacy has changed. There was a time where we would not have “checked in” on social media or purchased a “smart” phone nor doorbell. However, those times have vanished. We now live in a world of the Internet of Things, where a “smart” version of any device is the norm and by transmitting many of our daily tasks and interactions online, we have created a detailed digital imprint of our lives. Whether we admit it or not, we tell our devices a lot about ourselves. For example, data from a smart watch generates heart rate and activity that is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) if shared with your personal doctor, but not protected when shared on fitness apps like Strava, where you compare your performance with your peers.

Different types of interactions require different levels of privacy. Financial information and medical records are types of information we want to keep private. Personally identifying information (PII) is the gateway to our privacy. Common information like our name or address, combined with information like our email address or our mother’s maiden name, act as keys to our digital lives. With this kind of information hackers have the ability to steal our identities. In order to keep our PII from falling into the wrong hands we must first start by educating ourselves.

Here are some essential tips for keeping your sensitive data safe:

  • Keep personal information personal – the more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information to access your data and steal your identity.
  • Avoid oversharing on social media and be mindful of what you post – the internet does not have a delete button, any comments or images you post online may stay online forever since removing the original does not remove any copies.
  • Be mindful of your connections – free Wi-Fi offered at airports, hotels, cafes, restaurants and shopping centers are unprotected and can expose PII, always use a secure connection, such as a VPN.
  • Make online purchases from secure sites – only supply your credit card or bank account information to sites that provide secure, encrypted connections (look for the padlock icon next to the address bar).
  • Do not save financial information on shopping sites – many shopping sites let you save your credit card or banking information in your online account making it easier to make purchases in the future. However, if you can access this information, so can hackers.
  • Keep security software current – having the latest security software, web browser and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats.

The tips above can help you keep your personal information secured. Cyber criminals are becoming more and more creative but exercising caution will help ward them off.

For further information please contact the Office of Privacy and Data Security at 305-243-5000 or privacy@med.miami.edu. For assistance with security safeguards, contact IT’s Help Desk at 305-243-5999 or help@med.miami.edu.