Are You Your Own Biggest Cybersecurity Threat?


When most of us hear the term “over-sharing,” we recall our sister posting 50 photos of her engagement ring or a colleague providing in-depth coverage of his vacation in the Poconos. It implies the presence of more information than we really care about knowing. When you think about cyber security, though, over-sharing takes on a more serious tone. In that case, the information is of great interest. It’s useful to people bent on identity theft, phishing, and even extortion.

You may be thinking I’m being overly dramatic, but there is cause for concern, especially for those of us whose digital presence is a big part of doing business (read: everyone in CRE who is serious about the business). Whether you’re considering your own habits or the culture that exists around social media in your office, they matter. Entrepreneur tells us that last year, companies lost between $375 and $575 billion to cyber attacks, and they’ve increased by over 70% since 2013.

Posting more information than you should online can be easy to slide into, especially if your competition is doing it. Obviously social media are essential to successful marketing and branding these days, so participation is a good move. But problems can arise from over-sharing. And they’re often intensified on a company level, where social media may be handled by an intern or outside contractor. A little discretion with regard to social media goes a long way.

With so much of our data being stored and shared in the Cloud, critical information must be safeguarded through security and encryption. When a firm’s system is stitched together using different apps housed with different servers, security gaps can appear. This sort of arrangement can also be a nightmare from an efficiency standpoint, with different passwords and formats creating unnecessary obstacles.  So for the sake of security as well as efficiency, systems should be tied together as much as possible. An integrated approach ensures that information is protected in a consistent way.

This is a concern for our clients as well, and cyber security can be an important part of a firm’s customer service efforts. According to the Digital Guardian, the personal data of 47% of U.S. adults were exposed by cyber attack in 2014.

In response to this criminal activity, data loss prevention (DLP) has become big business. There are a range of DLP software products available that classify and protect confidential and critical information. It can prevent end users from accidentally (or deliberately) sharing data that could put the organization at risk. These tools can monitor and control endpoint activities, plus filter data streams on business networks to protect the data as it moves around. These systems work, and they prevent employees from making security errors.

For business, high level security systems and topnotch technology can keep your proprietary files and customer information secure. It’s important to create an integrated system to manage and secure critical information in the Cloud. Organizations should also develop social media policies and make sure that all employees comply. While no one is likely to wreak cyber havoc deliberately by over-sharing, they can certainly do so inadvertently due to lack of awareness.

Avoiding this all-too-common hazard takes individual action and a united front.  Your best tools against cyber crime are awareness and a solid social media policy. With adoption of all of these products and apps accelerating a rapid pace, education on this topic is so important for companies of all sizes -  both internally and externally. We are all going to go deeper and deeper in the tech revolution, so being forewarned is forearmed.