Valley First

Don’t be leery of the cloud, just be wise

September 23, 2014

Penticton, B.C.—Round two of naked celebrity photo leak hit cyberspace this past Sunday. The latest hack attack—the second in less than a month—is again prompting many to ask: is my personal information like photos, videos or documents safe online, in the so-called “cloud”?

“The current rash of celebrity exposure due to hacked mobile devices was largely preventable,” says Dominic Vogel, an information technology security expert at Valley First. “If people had been more informed and diligent with their mobile device settings, this wouldn’t be news.”

One of the most recent high-profile photo leaks may have been accomplished by a hacker exploiting weak user passwords for Apple’s iCloud service. iCloud is an online storage space that acts as a back up and synchronization service for data on a person’s iPhone, such as music and photos.

“A lot of people don’t realize the factory default for data synchronization on their mobile device could be set to ‘on’,” Vogel says. “That could mean every personal photo, video or document stored on the phone is also saved online, automatically.”

Personal data synced to cloud services is still behind a user’s account password. But is that enough, especially when it comes to financial information?

“These recent hack attacks are unique,” says Vogel. “Hackers target glitterati and other high-profile people because of the exposure received by such exploits. It’s more about the thrill and notoriety than about financial gain through fraud.

“Our expert security professionals and robust operational processes and technology all work together to ensure we protect our members’ personal and financial information,” says Vogel.

But, notes Vogel, staying secure online requires a co-operative approach.

“People also need to make sure to employ best practices—strong passwords, up-to-date virus software, deleting suspicious email—to make sure their computers are clean of malware.”

While online fraud will always be a possibility, identity fraud through mail theft and dumpster diving remain a favourite avenue of thieves.

“It’s common for people to toss their paper bills and statements into the recycling bin—that makes for an easy grab for fraudsters,” says Vogel. “Electronic statements can’t be obtained this way—online fraud requires a more sophisticated attack and is far less frequent. Moving to e-statements and reducing the amount of financial mail one receives eliminates this avenue from thieves.”

According to Vogel, one needn’t be afraid of using online services to store personal data. Rather, one must be wise. He offers the following tips for ramping up the security of online data:

  1. Double-check the security configurations of your mobile device and web-based services you use, such as social media.
  2. Don’t use generic account security questions.
  3. If possible, activate two-factor verification for web-based services.
  4. Protect your devices with remote wiping capability.
  5. Most importantly, think before you post anything online.

About Valley First

Valley First is a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union, which has 38 branches and 29 insurance offices throughout the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Kitimat and Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. Led by Launi Skinner, First West has $7.7 billion in assets under administration, more than 177,000 members and close to 1,300 employees.

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