Rebecca Herold

The Privacy Professor's
Tips of the

Summer is a Field Day for Fraudsters

The season presents the perfect storm for victims, and a field day for fraudsters.  Windows are open, people are relaxed, homes are unoccupied for weeks at a time and banks are monitoring a whole slew of unusual transactions from their traveling customers (which crooks take advantage of to disguise their frauds.)


Following are a few tips, warnings and precautionary steps you can take to spend your summer months at a beach without a care, rather than up a creek without a paddle.  

National Email Week

It's true there's a holiday for nearly everything these days, even email. The communications technology that has reshaped the way we conduct our personal and professional  conversations not only has a day; it has an entire week. And it serves as a great reminder of the pitfalls into which we can stumble.

This National Email Week, the week of June 11, remind yourself, your colleagues and your family and friends that even small mistakes can have big consequences. Remember to:
  • Double, even triple, check addresses before sending. A lot of privacy breaches happen because people have accidentally sent emails to the wrong recipient. Several email tools today have auto-fill functions that can make it even easier to mistype an address.


  • Be sure to use the blind-copy (BCC) field when sending mass emails. If you inadvertently put the emails in the carbon-copy (CC) box, you are sharing private email addresses with potentially thousands of people. 


  • Don't click shortened URLs unless you are certain they come from a trustworthy source, and ideally if you check it first, such as by copying the URL into a security checking site like urlvoid.com. Most importantly, be sure the source really did send the mail and was not the victim of a hacked email account. It is becoming very common for hackers to send malicious emails within social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. 


  • Encrypt emails with sensitive and personal information. There are many good, free options available, such as those from Trend Micro for personal use, and Outlook also has an encryption option.  

Seth Godin has created a fantastic (and humorous) email checklist, that you may want to peruse. 

Summer Travel Tips


The Herold household is preparing to send our son overseas. We're very proud he was one of the few chosen to represent Iowa in an exchange with our sister city in Japan. As you can imagine, we're at DEFCON 1, arming him with all the tools and tips he needs to stay safe while traveling abroad.

Here are a few of the warnings we've shared with him:

Avoid using unsecured hotel and public WiFi networks. The FBI has recently issued a stern warning for U.S. travelers.  Instead, rely on a trusted source, such as your own Sprint or AT&T wireless USB device. Here are a few good

When taking videos and photos on your smartphone, e-mail them home or to a trusted source immediately. Our son is going to send us text attachments, at no extra charge under our wireless plan, so we can see his photos and videos right away. This also prevents the chances he could lose his phone and all the memories with it.

Don't carry anything with personal information if you can help it. Lock away items like passports, drivers licenses and credit cards at the hotel in the room safe, or similarly secured area. Carry only a small amount of cash and/or travelers checks. A money belt with additional money can be worn to protect you from pick-pockets.  


School's Out for Summer

Don't let the fact that school is not in session fool you. There are still plenty of threats facing younger generations who will use social media to stay in close contact with friends over the summer months. Advise them to:


>>Tell you of any cyberbullying they may witness, whether or not they are the victim. As we have seen, there can be very serious consequences to this harassing behavior, and simply asking your children about this can have a big impact.


>>Lock down Facebook by always logging out at the close of a session, even if stepping away for only a few moments. One very effective way to warn some impressionable teens about this is to post something reasonably embarrassing on their wall if you catch their Facebook page open and unattended. Sends the message loud and clear! Of course, don't post anything that will go beyond embarrassment, causing real harm.


>>Always be mindful of the information you send within text messages and through mobile apps on smartphones.  Not only do crooks use texts and apps to collect personal information they then use for a variety of crimes, but this data is also available to law enforcement without the need for a warrant.  The last thing you want is to have a texting or smartphone trail that paints an incorrect picture. This can happen even to the innocent!

In June, I'm giving a webinar sponsored by the Information Systems Security Association titled, "Social Media Gone Wild." Check it out if you want to learn more about the potential dangers of the online and social tools your kids, and perhaps parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents, will be playing with this summer. 



Big Brother Likes Big Data

Your clicks, likes, video views, online shopping habits, blog comments - all are being collected and built into what is known as your digital personal profile. The ramifications are huge. Here's a short excerpt from a blog post I wrote recently, "Big Brother Likes Big Data."

It may be easier to list who isn't using Big Data than those who are.  Here are just a few of the ways in which Big Marketers and others are salivating over the limitless uses they can get from Big Data and the associated analysis.

Tax preparation organizations, such as Turbotax, like to tout the benefits to make "online tax prep more adaptive and predictive" for their customers.

Payroll and payment processing businesses, such as Intuit, like to "keep its customers loyal and happy."

Museums, zoos and other public attraction businesses, such as the Cincinnati Zoo, are using Big Data analytics to determine what visitors to purchase, the areas where they spend the most time, their favorite attractions, and when potentially high spending visitors are in the area.

Law enforcement and investigators are using Big Data analytics to track crime incidents, catch crooks and increase public safety.

New search engines are being created to use semantic technology to improve search results to bring business benefits.

And the list could go on and on.

To read more of the post, including how my own son witnessed Big Data at work in a story about WalMart, check out my blog

Summer truly is the best time to unwind, destress and just enjoy life. I hope you will take these tips as gentle warnings that can save you the hassle of cleaning up a mess made by criminals, possibly even by your own actions by having not understood these risks.
Have a fantastic summer, stay cool and make the best of it!



Rebecca Herold & Associates, LLC
Mobile: 515.491.1564, Business: 515.996.2199