Communicate with caution in the digital space

In today’s digitally driven world, it has never been easier to shop, apply for loans, transfer money or even set up doctor appointments. We transmit all sorts of financial and personal information across the internet – and this information needs to be protected as it zigzags across cyberspace. Most of us use the web browsers on our phone or computer to interact with the internet. The easiest way to make sure the website you are using is secure is to look for the padlock icon next to the address bar. This icon may differ slightly depending on your browser, but if you see a closed lock with no red flags or warning, then the site is secure.

The padlock indicates that the website is using SSL/TLS, which just means that it is encrypted. If you don’t see the padlock, that means the website is not secure, and you’re putting your data at risk by visiting it.

Email is another major communication tool many of us use every day. For the most part, we send email in clear text (i.e. , information is sent as-is, rendering it readable without a keyword of some sort), store it on a server and then send it when the recipient is next available. Some security features are available for many web mail clients, but none are guaranteed to be secure because there is nothing forcing the recipient to abide by the request to send or receive the information securely. To make a long story short, it is definitely not a good idea to send sensitive data through your Gmail (or any other) email account.

Text messaging and phone calls are usually protected by the communication network protocol and providers themselves. The prevalent cell network protocols- GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and COMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) -have been cracked in recent years, so you shouldn’t assume they’re secure.

The past couple of years have seen a surge in the use of third-party secure chat programs. Be wary of these apps because while many of them claim to be secure, some do not follow good practices. Do your research before using these apps for your sensitive communications.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Check your web browser for a padlock icon next to the URL in the browser. Most modern browsers provide a padlock icon when there is a valid certificate and a website is using an encrypted protocol. Before you enter personal information – even a password to log in – look for the confirmation that encryption is in use. If you do not see the padlock on a site you’re visiting, or there are errors in the address bar where you would normally see the padlock, DO NOT enter any sensitive information into it.

DO NOT send or store sensitive information via email unless you know it is secure. If you need to send emails or files securely over the internet, you should use a secure encrypted file-sharing tool or an email service such as Sharefile or Zixmail.

Use an app, such as Signal for Android or Signal for iOS, for secure chat and phone calls.

A Public Service Announcement Courtesy of Cedar Valley Bank & Trust