Secure your data; you never know who’s looking

By now, it should be abundantly clear that our data is not secure.  Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen an exponential increase in organized, methodical cyber-related attacks to steal confidential data, assume identities, drain bank accounts and plunder consumer and corporate networks. This worldwide hacking community can hold your data hostage (ransomware), ruin user’s credit in the blink of an eye, and cause immeasurable amounts of grief to those who have been hacked.  Reuters estimated that in 2014, cybercrime cost the global economy $450 billion.

Data hacks including the Office of Personnel Management, the Pentagon, University of Virginia, the IRS, Experian and Lastpass, a company whose entire focus and mission was to provide security via software, are both disturbing and embarrassing. Every single breach occurred because a hacker gained unauthorized access into a “secure” network. Once inside, hackers had access to a trove of data for an undetermined amount of time.

From an enterprise level, is it possible to strengthen security? Yes, absolutely. Software security management systems can clearly benefit from a low-level hardware-encryption IT-managed product that strengthens the overall solution. From a consumer and entrepreneurial perspective, we need access to a simple yet secure and affordable data encryption solution, because you never know who’s looking.

It’s important that we secure data on our computing devices. Important items like a Social Security number, a will, estate documents, sales agreements, contracts, medical documents or anything you deem confidential.

If you use a computer as a storage device, you’re vulnerable to hackers – even when not connected to the Internet. If you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself. After all the reminders, it should now be a given to record password(s). Once you’ve forgotten your password, it’s just about impossible to recover data, or to decrypt encrypted data.

Some years back, a person’s computer was stolen. Financial investments, legal proceedings, confidential communications and other valuable data were onboard. That person’s identity was also stolen, resulting in bank accounts being emptied, foreclosures and a huge credit hit. Years later, many of these issues remain unresolved.

Sad stories such as this abound, so don’t let this happen to you.

There are 3 options available to secure data:

Software encryption. Many users use a software-encryption product. Great! Keep in mind that your password will be stored not only on your hard drive but also in your computer’s operating system, making your device subject to attack.

Hardware encryption. The best way to encrypt data is to employ a physical encryption and key-management device which does not store data. Once the device is removed from the computer, encrypted data cannot be decrypted.

By far the largest option worldwide is the Hope and Pray concept. We all know that the Hope and Pray option is a bad decision, but we continue to enforce that decision every day. It’s best to reconsider the first two options to secure your data.

Take a few minutes to learn how to encrypt your data. If you’d like to understand available options, send an email; we’re happy to help. Securing confidential data is a great idea and protects what you’ve worked so hard to accumulate.

The real takeaway: Don’t expect others to protect or secure your data; it’s very clear that it’s not likely. Take it upon yourself to encrypt what is important to you.

After all, the end result is your peace of mind, and that should be a very good thing.

Robert Fleming is founder and president of Erie-based BlackSquare Technologies, makers of real-time hardware encryption and key-management devices called Enigma. BlackSquare won the Business category at the 2015 IQ Awards, presented by BizWest. Contact Fleming at