I’ve spoken a lot about branding and being open and honest with your audience. I’ve spoken about having a strong social media presence, and how good, integrated strategy can move your business forward. But what I haven’t spoken about is how all of this can be ruined by poor online security.
Tell someone to lock their door, and they’ll do it, no questions asked. You ask them to protect themselves by putting their money in banks, by signing and pinning their credit cards and you will receive no grief. But when you ask them to protect themselves online by making strong passwords they just revolt. They just can’t be expected to create, write down, or remember a password. So we get lists like this one that goes through the top 25 worst passwords of 2013. Passwords are safeguards against hackers who steal personal and corporate identities, financial information and destroy credit scores and reputations. That is what you are protecting when you take the time to make strong passwords. While you will never fully eliminate the threat, isn’t it worth your time to minimize it?
Why can’t people be bothered to protect themselves? If you don’t want to write your passwords down in a secure place (Note: A secure place does NOT include a sticky note stuck to your computer or pinned to the cork board in your office) or if you are unable to remember them, especially since every account deserves its own unique password, you can use services like LastPass or Dashlane to keep everything secure for you. In general, your passwords should be 7-13 characters long, they should include letters (lower and upper case), numbers and symbols. They should also not be something easily guessed or predicted. See the link above for the list of passwords you should avoid at all costs.
Everyone has become so used to the internet that many people forget that it is, for the most part, a lawless free for-all where even if you play by “the rules”, you can still be stung by those that aren’t. Online security and privacy is incredibly important in social media. In today’s age where everyone is expected to have their whole lives online, it takes more time to stop and consider what you are sharing rather than blindly posting things. Consider what information you need in order to steal someone’s identity — their name, birthday, address and mother’s maiden name. That’s it. The rest can be hacked, coerced or figured out.
Imagine if someone got into your personnel files, your financials or your social media accounts. How much damage could they do to your reputation? To your bottom line? (I’ve written about how I feel about merging personal and professional social media accounts online for that very reason). Here’s a story of how one man lost control of his own identity through loopholes in Apple and Amazon security checks. It’s a scary (and extreme) example. I am not saying that this will happen to you, but the point is, it could.
Online security is just as important for corporations as it is for individuals. HMV found out the hard way when it fired its social media coordinator (along with 120 other staff members) without revoking her social media access. What followed was one of the most embarrassing and reputation damaging communications crisis of 2013. The coordinator live-tweeted the whole event, and then continued to bash the company on her own account once her access was revoked. Just like people with passwords, companies will take all precautions when firing someone (like not allowing you to discuss it with others or escorting you off the property) but fail to consider the online security risk that comes from forgetting to revoke social media access.
The Internet Remembers
Just because you delete something off the internet, whether it be a tweet, a comment or a picture, the internet will remember it. Just look at Justine Sacco’s story, a communications professional for a high-ranking US-based internet company who was not only fired for her (personal) racist tweet, but will now never be known for anything else. As I’ve said before, never put anything online that you would be embarrassed to have on the front page of the newspaper. So how does that relate to Online Security? Any information you share on the internet, no matter how innocuous it seems, will always exist for someone else to find. Even if you think you’ve deleted it, the internet will always remember.
Maybe it’s time to rethink your personal and corporate online privacy rules. How much are you sharing? Who are you sharing it with? What are your employees sharing? Do you have guidelines for your online passwords? Your regular passwords? For your online social media use? Let me know in the comments below.
Need some help with those guidelines? Contact me for a free consultation, and subscribe to my blog for more weekly communications content!