Top tips to keeping your private data safe

Top tips to keeping your private data safe

In a world where computers and smart devices are becoming increasingly relied upon, the amount of data stored online is rising. It is now becoming more important than ever to make sure this data, whether personal or commercial, if adequately protected. Dr Hotchen, a senior trainee patent attorney at Wynne-Jones IP, is advising organisations of all sizes to assess their online, smart device and computer security policies ahead of Data Privacy Day this Sunday.

The international awareness day aims to promote data privacy and highlight data protection best practice among businesses, charities, organisations, and individuals across the globe. This also comes as individuals and businesses evaluate their security processes ahead of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), coming into effect from 25 May 2018. To support businesses in effectively securing their confidential information, Dr Hotchen is offering his top tips for maximising data privacy.

 

Passwords

When protecting sensitive data from potential hackers, a password is often all that prevents unauthorised access from those who wish to exploit confidential information. As such, it is crucial that businesses storing staff records, client data, confidential reports (which might include specialist “know-how”), and information on business transactions choose strong and secure passwords.

People often leave their data vulnerable by relying on the same password for numerous accounts, both at home and whilst at work. While this can help the user to remember a password, if the password is compromised, a hacker may more easily exploit data from other accounts which use the same or similar passwords. More worryingly, if passwords are duplicated between personal and business accounts, a compromised personal account could lead to unauthorised access of a business account and the numerous files within your organisation. Therefore, users should avoid duplicating passwords across accounts, in particular, between personal and work accounts.

Choosing predictable passwords such as ABCDEF or 12345 are easily cracked by those seeking to access your private documents, and therefore should be avoided.

Finally, the longer and more complex or random the password, the more difficult it will be to crack by brute force. Choose a password which features upper and lower case letters, numbers and at least eight characters to make it more difficult to hack into. A simple trick to choosing a strong but memorable password is to use four random words – such a password could take 100’s of years to crack using brute force alone.

 

Password Managers

As a company you may store thousands of files on internal websites or archives which need to be protected from potentially harmful outside influences.

A business may even run various websites for external clients which needs extra security against hackers.

One effective way to help prevent hackers access your passwords and gain access to your data, is to utilise a password manager. A password manager can store the passwords for numerous accounts in a database so you don’t have to remember them all.  

To prevent unwanted access, password database is encrypted with a master password – the master password is the only one that needs to be remembered and the one that allows access to the stored passwords.

Whilst this is a convenient method so that you do not have to remember lots of different passwords, if the master password is compromised, a hacker will gain access to all of the passwords stored in the database. Therefore, the strength of the password manager is only as strong as the master password, and it is advisable to make sure the master password is sufficiently strong.

 

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is key to any business. Companies, in particular those which invest heavily in developing unique products, branding, and inventions, are reliant on protecting sensitive information and know-how which could contribute to their eventual success. For example, trade secrets are commonly used in the food and drink sector to protect recipes and formulations. In principle, a trade secret can keep a formulation secret indefinitely, however, in the event of a data breach, this information could enter the public domain without any legal protection.

A contrasting approach is to protect commercially valuable IP by virtue of patents, registered designs, and trade marks. In the case of patents, this can provide a monopoly in a market for the patented invention for a maximum period of 20 years. In return for this monopoly, the patent owner is required to fully disclose their invention. However, it is important not to disclose details of your invention publicly before a patent application has been filed, as otherwise this will invalidate your patent.

Such initial investment to develop products, such as the development of a new therapeutic drug, can cost millions of pounds. If this commercially valuable data is not adequately protected, this could allow competitors to copy the product at a fraction of the investment cost.

 

Mobile phone access

Mobile technology has now made accessing confidential data on the go even easier. Smart devices are the number one hassle-free method for accessing information and personal data, with mobile phones and tablets used daily for banking, reading work and personal emails, and purchasing goods. However, this ease of access, has provided hackers with even more opportunities to obtain personal and private data. As such, individuals and companies who provide staff with phones need to be even more stringent when it comes to data privacy. Raising awareness of data privacy is probably the first course of action. Ensure you are well versed on privacy settings for different accounts and applications, paying specific attention to any software or app updates, to keep your information safe. It is also advisable, where possible, to keep separate work and personal devices.

 

Anti-Malware protection

Hackers and those seeking to exploit private and confidential data are utilising increasingly sophisticated and imaginative methods to access information. Malware, which includes viruses, spyware, trojan horses and more, can be found in seemingly legitimate emails, shared files, video links, and downloads. In certain circumstances it can even be disguised as an email from a friend or in a website link. Workers who work predominantly on computers could be particularly susceptible to someone accessing their information in this way. As such, employers should make sure their anti-malware (including anti-virus) software up-to-date; run anti-virus scans frequently, including thorough and wide-ranging scans of all their software; and mark all suspicious emails sent to them as junk. A company-wide privacy policy, advising on all suspicious emails and what the procedure is, could also help to minimise risks associated with malware.

 

In summary…

In a world where computers and smart devices are becoming increasingly relied upon, the amount of data stored online is rising. It is now becoming more important than ever to make sure this data, whether personal or commercial, if adequately protected. Whilst savvy hackers might (eventually) be able to gain access to almost any account, adopting best practices whilst online can help mitigate this risk, and can help keep your valuable data safe.

 

Related News

Managing your business-critical IP during the COVID-19 crisis
news

Managing your business-critical IP during the COVID-19 crisis

UK businesses are fighting for survival during the continuing COVID-19 outbreak and trying to trade under difficult conditions, the likes of which haven’t been seen in the living memory of most business people. If you’re afraid that your business is going to the wall, it probably isn’t the top of your mind to pay for a patent application for your new technology or a registration of the trade mark for your brand new clothing range, right?  Where is the money coming from to invest in such luxuries as IP, we hear you say, when staff are being furloughed and orders have been postponed?

Videoconferencing: the future of oral proceedings at the EPO?
news

Videoconferencing: the future of oral proceedings at the EPO?

The European Patent Office has announced that videoconferencing will become the norm for oral proceedings before examination and opposition divisions until at least 15 September 2021. But is this a taste of what the future holds for oral proceedings at the EPO?

EPO-CNIPA pilot for International Search
news

EPO-CNIPA pilot for International Search

On 12 November 2019, the EPO and CNIPA agreed to enhance their bilateral co-operation to give patent applicants filing an international patent application in English at the CNIPA, the choice to opt for the EPO as their ISA. A two year pilot programme launched on 1 December 2020, offers applicants filing international applications with the CNIPA or the International Bureau (IB) of the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) the opportunity to select the EPO as their ISA and as their International Preliminary Examining Authority (IPEA), rather than CNIPA.

Changes to trade mark and patent law in Gibraltar
news

Changes to trade mark and patent law in Gibraltar

In October 2020, the UK Government declared that the territorial effect of five important IP treaties would be extended to cover Gibraltar from 1 January 2021.  These treaties are the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Madrid Protocol (on International trade marks), the Nice Agreement (on trade mark classification), and the Berne Convention (on copyright). Following on from this, a bill was passed in on 11 December 2020, making some amendments to trade mark and patent law in Gibraltar.

Much Ado About Nothing
news

Much Ado About Nothing

For a long time, a source of tension among UK trade mark and design attorneys was the fact that the UK was one of the few EU member states to abide by a decision to allow attorneys from any European Economic Area country to represent clients in proceedings before any national office of an EU member state.  With this in mind, one of the ironies of Brexit is that, from 1st January 2021, UK trade mark and design attorneys will (in general – please see below for a super-important exception!) lose the right to represent clients before the EU IPO

Messi scores in injury time…..
news

Messi scores in injury time…..

After nine-years (even Sir Alex Ferguson would have struggled to justify that), six time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, has won a legal battle to register his name as a trade mark.

The impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on the Patent Profession
news

The impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on the Patent Profession

Matthew Veale discusses the impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on the patent profession.

UK IPO announces temporary fee changes
news

UK IPO announces temporary fee changes

The UKIPO has temporarily reduced or removed certain fees associated with patents, trade marks and registered designs until 31 March 2021.

aipex logo aipex logo aipex logo