Five Things Your Device Knows About You
Whether it be a computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone, your device knows a surprising amount about you. Most of what you do is tracked and the associated data stored. Understanding what data your device is collecting and how it collects and uses that data is important, as it helps you protect your data from malicious use.
Whilst you cannot stop the collection of data in all instances, being aware of what your device knows allows you to adjust your behaviour accordingly and puts a greater focus on safer, securer best practices. With that in mind, here are five things your device knows about you.
Your Passwords & Auto-Fill Data.
Any password or data that your browser automatically populates for you is stored and kept on file. This includes your name, addresses and any credit card details you ask your browser to store. Whilst storing this data in your browser saves time when completing an online form, it’s worth considering whether you want your browser to remember such information.
Saved password lists can easily be retrieved from your browser’s settings and in less than a few seconds a malicious user has access to your passwords. Whilst some browsers and operating systems try to put in place some measures to stop such an eventuality, it’s very easy to bypass them.
A password manager is a much more secure means of storing this data. Whilst there are costs involved, you are able to populate forms with ease, whilst keeping your data secure.
Everywhere You’ve Been.
Mobile phones are very effective at tracking your location. Even when your location services are turned off, some apps that rely upon GPS data will track and store your location. This is most evident when looking at Google Maps history, which will show you a breakdown of everywhere you’ve visited, even if you didn’t use or access the app whilst there.
This data may seem innocent enough, but in the wrong hands, it could prove very useful. By analysing location data it is possible to work out trends and habits that will give clues as to different situations. For example, you may be able to tell when properties are likely to be left unattended or where you might be at a particular time.
To combat this, you should review app permissions to check what services have access to your location. You may be surprised that it isn’t just maps that can see your location, so check all of the apps installed on your device. Unless it is critical to the core function of the app (SatNav for example) consider revoking access to location services.
Every Message & Phone Call.
The messages that you send and receive, as well as the phone calls that you make, are all logged by your device. For this reason, you should avoid discussing sensitive information, especially account credentials like passwords, via text message or other alternative messaging services.
Whilst services like Whatsapp may have end-to-end encryption, meaning the messages cannot be read in transit, the app itself is easy to access for anyone that may have your device. It’s worth considering what information is stored on portable devices inside messages, in case your phone gets lost or stolen.
Even once it has been erased, the data deleted from your device can often be recovered unless it is overwritten. This means that you need to be wary of what data you consume on which device, and in particular, mobile devices. If you receive a particular sensitive email, perhaps what until you are on a company computer before downloading the attachment. That way you can ensure the device is harder to access and that once deleted, the file is unrecoverable.
It is also important to consider this when it comes to disposing of your device. Make sure you use a reputable recycling service that will overwrite the original data so it cannot be recovered. They should be able to provide you with evidence of this, so that you have a record should any of that data crop up anywhere it shouldn’t.
Never just throw your technology away, without getting it disposed of properly. You never know who will come across your device or storage in the future, what they might be able to find out about you and how they might use it. Official recycling services and inexpensive and are something your IT support provider should be able to assist with.
Recent Files & Downloads
Lists of recent files are kept by operating systems and apps, whilst everything you download such as bank statements are also accessible. Be careful as to what you download, particularly on shared devices or those that leave the office. You should never download personal material to a business device as your company will often have the right to view whatever files are stored upon it.
Dispose of sensitive material when you’re finished with it and don’t let files collect in your download folders. It is easy to forget these folders but make sure they are cleared out regularly. As mentioned above, it’s important that files are deleted correctly to ensure they are unrecoverable.