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Belinda Parmar

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It's Time to Get Smart About Internet Security

Posted: 10/10/2011 12:35 pm

It was 8 a.m. and I was very cross with myself. Upon reaching into my bag to send an email, I had just realized that I had lost my smartphone.

Thankfully at the cafe where I last remembered using it, I found the lady who had served me had, true to form, been very lovely and put the handset out of harm's way. Deep breath. Lucky me.

But I couldn't help but wonder as I went on my way -- what if she hadn't been quite so kind? What if some opportunistic soul had seen the phone and snatched it?

Five years ago this would have meant a small financial sting, a call to my network and a couple of irritating days attached to a landline. Today it could cause me a minor disaster.

Anyone in possession of my phone has the potential to access to my contacts, social networking accounts, home and work information and credit card details. Once NFC chips arrive there's every chance they could have my cash card as well. It's like having your purse and your laptop stolen simultaneously. (As well as your cell phone. Obviously.)

I'm not advocating a return to simpler handsets. Much as I always loved a bit of Snake II, I would be lost without on-the-go access to email, twitter and the web. But the advantages of a fancy-dan phone can blind you to the fact that you are carting around a computer that holds oodles of your sensitive information.

What makes things worse is that the risk is not just about having your phone stolen. There are thousands of cyber-criminals out there who no more need your handset to access personal data than a master thief would need the keys to your front door. Cyber-crime currently costs the U.S. $114 billion per year.

Thankfully there's a simple solution. If we are going to throw ourselves -- and our families -- headfirst into this super-connected world (and there's no reason why we shouldn't) we must take the necessary precautions. Password managers, security software, smartphone protection: internet security can no longer be limited to running a bi-annual virus scan and crossing your fingers in silent prayer. It's time to become a bit more savvy.

What's strangest is that, currently, women appear to be more lax than men. Given studies tend to show that they are more adverse to risk, it astounds me that recent research (Kaspersky Brand Track Survey 2011) indicates eight out of ten women have no security software on their smartphones whatsoever. That's why we've created the Lady Geek TV Security Show. We want to change how people approach online security. Protecting your smartphone doesn't have to feel ominous, but instead become as routine as having a password for your email account. That way, we won't have a minor heart attack every time we misplace our phone.

@belindaparmar is the founder of @LadyGeekTV. Please join the Lady Geek campaign to end the stereotypes and cliches towards women in tech. https://www.facebook.com/LadyGeekTV

 

Follow Belinda Parmar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/belindaparmar

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