Following recent shocking headlines about Amazon’s billionaire owner Jeff Bezos’s racy text messages and possible nude images leaked, a refresher on how to protect yourself against having personal messages leaked is warranted. Without diving into the ethics of a billionaire’s behavior, and that there are many out to “get” him, it shows how vulnerable we remain no matter how much we accumulate.
If it can happen to one of the wealthiest people in history, it could conceivably happen to you. Dubious parties looking for sensitive data are not troubled by ethics, as we saw on Valentine’s Day when dating platform Coffee Meets Bagel suffered a data breach. Whichever platform you choose for your romantic or professional interests, the Interfor team says its time to go over the basics on staying safe in the age of the leak.
Think before sending
This goes without saying, but if you are afraid something you wrote (or photographed) might get out there, don’t send it. It’s as simple as that. If you’re even somewhat hesitant, wait for a day, to see how you feel. Then you’ll know you gave yourself time before doing something you might regret. In a testament to the times, Google’s new Gmail version has an unsend button, and Facebook Messenger recently rolled out an unsend feature. Snap, Instagram Stories and disappearing images didn’t appear out of nowhere but were born out of fears that content would live on the Internet forever. If Jeff Bezos’s fellow tech titans know anything, it’s how short-sighted behavior can be.
Change your passwords
We’ve stressed this measure in multiple articles but it bears repeating: it is imperative to change passwords regularly and not use the same password for all logins. Simple smartphone safety utilizes a password just in case of theft. If someone steals your phone, the last thing you want is someone scrolling through your messages.
Use certain platforms
Some platforms are safer than others. In a previous newsletter we reviewed the messaging platforms we think are the safest, but also understand that your network needs to be on that platform. We recommend Signal or Wickr, depending on the needs of your organization. Nothing in this world is 100%, so be cautious with what you’re sending. It is a bit concerning to see where this is headed with Facebook’s plan to integrate Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram direct message. Previously, WhatsApp’s key to safety has been its end-to-end encryption, but with these new changes we’ll see if it continues as a safe choice.
Back in the day
This advice may harken back to the days of carrier pigeons — if something is crucial, say it face to face or send a handwritten note. As this CNBC article states “writing down your message and delivering it to someone else can still expose sensitive information, but it cuts down the data points and transit methods to only one. Data loss can only occur via a stiff breeze or errant bike messenger. You also don’t even have to sign your name.” Yes, this might seem excessive but until organizations’ willingness to tolerate data leaks are zero (and the public continues to put its head in the ground about this), these pre-digital methods might be the safest way to ensure your message is secure.
At the cusp of 2020 we still must worry about privacy — for as much as things change, things stay the same. When valuable information is out there, even if it’s juicy gossip, malicious people will want to get their hands on it. If you feel that your safety has been compromised and need someone to speak with, remember that Interfor is here to help.