There’s every reason to believe internet-connected devices will soon and forever outnumber people living on earth. Smartphones users alone are expected to grow in number to 2.5 billion by the year 2019. Moreover, with the holiday season upon us, it’s important to remember that we even shop for new gadgets using the ones we already own, with nearly half of holiday sales being conducted on a mobile operating system. As with previous years, Apple and competing devices will be some of the most popular purchases this holiday season, especially now that Amazon has secured an official distribution agreement.
The point is wireless devices are just about everywhere these days. And as we’re only too aware, security threats are just about everywhere, too. With our personal and professional lives increasingly surrounded and enhanced by digital convenience, let’s take a look at ways to keep all of the data on our gadgets, no matter how we use them, secure this holiday season and beyond.
Personal Devices and Security at Home
Are you expecting to add a new laptop, tablet or smartphone to your household this holiday? Choosing your operating system based on the protections they include out of the box is an excellent place to start. Here are some slightly more advanced measures you can take to keep your data — whether stored or in transmission — safe on the digital seas:
- Internet anonymity and security: Subscribing to a reliable and trustworthy VPN is nearly essential these days for digital nomads. We can’t take anything for granted on the internet these days — not with regional censorship, selective throttling of websites and services, and the ever-present danger of data thieves and other criminals. If you can find a reliable VPN that doesn’t collect logs, it’s worth the added security and peace of mind. VPNs don’t just anonymize your traffic at home, either — they’ll also obfuscate your details if you’re traveling or connecting to suspect Wi-Fi in coffee shops.
- Data backup: There are few excuses these days for losing important records or unsaved work. For your personal devices that contain a lot of data you’d be lost without, it’s time to take data backup seriously. Apple and Google both include free cloud storage for the essentials, like backing up photos and some parts of your filesystem, but it’s up to you to buy enough space in the cloud for an entire offsite smartphone or laptop backup. An alternative is to purchase a high-speed hard drive or SSD and perform manual backups yourself or choose a third-party backup provider for off-site redundancies of your entire digital life.
These are some of the most basic yet essentials tools you can use to secure your digital life at home, but they’re also great if you travel a lot for business or pleasure and want to keep yourself protected when you’re away from familiar networks.
Remote Work and the Gig Economy
Another recent tech trend to emerge in company culture is “BYOD,” or “Bring Your Own Device.” It’s easy to see the appeal of making a compromise like this with company employees: BYOD tends to promote higher morale as well as higher levels of productivity since team members get to do their work in a software environment they’re already familiar with.
The “gig economy” complements BYOD culture well, and shares many of the same challenges. Research and surveys suggest that by the year 2020, fully half of the U.S. workforce will telecommute for a living. The “gig economy” represents all of these satellite employees who perform digital work from home offices and shared workspaces.
Whether as part of a BYOD initiative or a result of relying on gig workers for some company workflows, it’s almost certain many of our companies will be adding new gadgets and connected devices to their networks. This means balancing the growth of your networks and stable of connected devices with the real-world cost of new architecture and accompanying security. It also requires companies going forward to deploy comprehensive sets of expectations concerning how personal devices may be used at work and which precautions must be observed for the privilege to continue.
To get started, it’s in your best interests to engage in cybersecurity drills and even outside consulting to make sure your teams know how to respond to suspicious emails and other potential scams. With the global average cost of a data breach standing at $3.86 million, according to IBM, this is no time to be lax about internet and device security, password hygiene, or any of the other protections we place between ourselves and cyber-criminals — especially with so many company workstations as well as personal devices in the mix.
A comprehensive approach to company cybersecurity requires, among other things, strong passwords and two-factor authentication for every company web property and the segregation of data flowing through your network by type and access privilege, with the most sensitive data restricted to private networks with appropriate access controls.
It’s worth noting that every new year and every Q1 brings new purchasing decisions. Increasingly, that means decisions related to technology investment. In fact, companies nearly across the board are reporting “more aggressive” tech spending in 2019. Among company representatives surveyed, nearly half indicated that IT-related training for employees is at the top of their spending priorities going forward.
This means two things. First, it means a minimum level of familiarity with technology is necessary for an ever-longer list of jobs and responsibilities. It also means that as technology reduces our necessary spending in some quarters, like tedious data entry, it requires more aggressive spending in others. We see one example here in employee training efforts, but there are many more — including in-house web development, third-party antivirus, antimalware and other digital tools, and even blockchain-based “trustless” mechanisms for bringing digital transparency and fingerprinting to complicated supply chains.
Suffice it to say, even when a company’ primary product has nothing to do with technology, that company will still need to be well-versed in multiple technologies to get their work done and keep the business running smoothly. Increasingly, that means deploying portable gadgets and internet-connected devices at both the commercial and personal level. Since threats to our data and digital identities don’t take any time off, neither can your company’s efforts to educate your employees and decision-makers on wise investments, practicing good judgment and observing security best practices.