Privacy and Information Security | University of Illinois

Week 3: Think of what you store and where it lives

Learning to protect your information is a vital skill in today's world. Whether it's your tax returns or your selfies, leaving data in the wrong place puts it at risk and can leave you open to identity theft. Data loss often occurs not because of "hacking", but because data was stored in an insecure location.

Lock on credit card

Information has value. This point is driven home as the number of headlines about data breaches grows. These breaches all cause financial loss to both individuals and institutions. While you might not be able to dictate how retailers and institutions handle your information, but you can take steps to keep your information safe when it is in your control.

Some high profile celebrities learned this lesson in a very public way when embarrassing photos of were published online. In many cases the victims claimed they didn't realize the information was stored online. An backup service had automatically uploaded the picture from a phone to the cloud. This highlights the importance of knowing where your data lives. You can't properly protect information unless you first know what you have an where it lives.

Identify what places you store information

Some of these might be obvious: your computer's hard drive has a wealth of information and should be protected accordingly. But you should also think about how your data might be moving without your knowledge. For instance, what information is being backed up from your phone to the cloud?

Inventory what data you are storing.

Where possible information dispose of information you no longer need. If you do need to store information make sure any sensitive information is stored in a secure location. For University data you can use your UofI Box account to store certain kinds of sensitive data

Where you shouldn't store information

One place that you shouldn't use to store your information is your email inbox. Your email account is probably one of the least secure places to store information. Having messages stored in an email account isn’t just a matter of clutter. Email accounts are vulnerable, and storing information here long-term can leave you at risk. Think about the messages that you save in your email account. Do you have registration emails from various web sites and services that you signed up for? Perhaps you have messages that would let a hacker know where you bank or what credit cards you use. You probably have saved attachments in your account as well.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about cyber security, please email for more information.

Follow @citessecurity on Twitter for awareness and news.

Photo by perspec_photo88

Tagged with: