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A Hard Habit To Kick

In the ‘70s the anti-smoking movement began to gain serious momentum. It was difficult to avoid the growing body of evidence that cigarettes were bad news, but it would be more difficult to break society of the habit. Even smokers who recognized that their nicotine addiction was a health hazard found it difficult to kick. Others simply refused. Cigarette smoking is not as widespread as it was back then, but it’s still in ample evidence, and cigarette sales constitute a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

It’s much the same with our bad information security habits. Friend and fellow privacy sojourner (and Boston Marathon finisher!) Robert Siciliano recently posted a link to an article in Business News Daily highlighting Five Dangerous File Sharing Habits You Need to Break Right Now.

The article’s lead delivers a message that followers of this blog will find familiar.

“Sharing files with colleagues and clients should be easy and convenient. What it shouldn't be is a security risk — but it frequently is. Because many small businesses don't have the right file-sharing systems and policies, many turn to unsafe practices that often put both their business's and clients' privacy in jeopardy.”

That has been the message and motivation of Blog Confidential from the outset. In response, our mission has been to raise awareness of the many ways we all put our privacy and information integrity at risk every day. We took that course because we felt it was important and consistent with the values of HoGo as a company and service. It may not be good marketing, per se, but it’s what we are all about.

The Five Dangerous Habits article echoes the well-established fact that people are most often the weakest link in the security chain. We undermine security because of habit, convenience, ignorance, the misguided notion that “it won’t happen to me,” and even out of malicious intent.

The five habits the article highlights are worth repeating here:
• Sharing Files Via Email
• Using Consumer-Grade Cloud Solutions
• Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File Sharing
• Using Flash Drives
• Lack of Visibility

The first bullet is the one I’ll focus on today, and it deserves to be at the top of the list. Email has become the default means of business communication for most people these days, or for sharing documents and files of a personal nature. But attaching a document with unprotected personal information is a riskier proposition than most realize.

Consider the following scenarios: your email program fills in an address that is different from the one you intended; you select “reply all” when you only meant to reply to a single person; the recipient of your email accidentally forwards your email to the wrong person; the person who received your email saves the file to a USB drive and misplaces it. Need I go on?

We can all do better to reduce the amount of unnecessary sharing that takes place with personal information and valuable intellectual property. And when we must share, we’d do well to protect that information with simple, cost-effective tools like HoGo.

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