In the current environment, most of us are communicating with friends and family remotely, leveraging social media and teleconferencing software like Zoom and Skype. Unfortunately, malicious actors often increase their activity during vulnerable times, targeting popular applications (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.). It’s important you remain alert and ensure you have taken the appropriate measures to protect your privacy online. 

Although our mobile devices have become such a trusted tool in our new remote lives we must not forget how many potential vulnerabilities they can expose us to. “One of the key benefits of mobile technology , especially in our current environment, is that it allows us to stay connected with family, friends, and our work,” said Tod Mitchinson, Chief Information Security Officer.  "Our mobile devices contain a lot of personal as well as confidential information. Just as we intentionally protect the personal assets in our home, we need to do the same with our smartphones and portable devices.”

 The following tips can help you safeguard your digital life against any type of devious disruptions.

Check your social privacy settings

Social networks are able to obtain and store a lot of information about us, and they can often make it visible to anyone on the on the Internet. It’s important to go into your settings and review what has been turned on by default. Although it varies by app (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.), the default setting often gives access to everything, such as your contacts and camera.

  • New applications: before you download a new app, do some research. Inquire where the company is based as this will most likely inform where your data is being stored. If the company is outside of the US, it will be harder for you to have jurisdiction over the data even though it is your information. Not all countries abide by the same data protection laws.
  •  Prohibit location tracking: Geotags are automatically added to the pictures you take on your mobile camera. If you are using an app that accesses the camera, the picture will be relayed to the app with the geotags, providing your exact location. This can be managed under your settings on your mobile device.

Download applications from recognized sources
Download apps from the official “store” provided by your device’s manufacturer. Many smaller or independent sources don’t perform the same testing, filtering, and community reporting that official stores use to detect malicious apps/actors. 

Review the application privacy statements and permission requests

It is easy to skip over the privacy statements due to their length and legalese, but it is important for you to know what the app will access. Statements such as, “…we could collect information you share, messages you send, information from your phone book, information from linked social media accounts, third party services, IP address, location data,…”, is alarming. Some will use this information to profile you for marketing/advertising. It’s important to determine the personal level of risk you are willing to assume by disclosing stated information.

Use private WiFi networks

Public WiFi allows anyone on the same network to view your traffic. To avoid broadcasting any sensitive data—logins, passwords, credit card data, and so forth—use private, known WiFi networks that require a username and password.

Install a security app

Make sure that you have anti-virus protection installed on your computers and consider having the same on our mobile devices. Firewall apps are also handy to make sure no apps are sending or receiving information you're not aware of. There are several anti-virus and anti-malware apps available.

Remember, your owned devices can share significant personal information about you. Take the time to protect your digital life.


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Media contact
Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-6955
Kevin_B_Maher@newyorklife.com

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