Technology is developing faster than ever before. The entire human experience is evolving to work alongside these innovations. The digital age is full of tools and devices that can help make our lives easier, more efficient, and more connected—of course, these items are just that: tools. Tools in the wrong hands can do a lot of damage, and so part of us adjusting to technological developments is learning how to protect ourselves and others from the inevitable misuse of these technologies.
The following will explore some of the things we can do—both in our personal lives and on a larger political and social level—to mitigate the risks to public safety that come hand in hand with the digital age. Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive. There are countless ways to protect yourself, your loved ones, your employees, and your customers. If, for any reason, you feel targeted or at risk of a digital crime, reach out to your local authorities. Safety should always come first.
What Are Cyber Crimes?
Cybercrimes are illegal actions taken using digital devices and information. This can include hacking, stealing data, or selling private information. Data has surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable commodity, and for a good reason—personal data can be used by advertisers, political candidates, criminals, and news organizations. Recent investigations have predicted that the illegal sale of data has resulted in drastic political outcomes. They allow campaign managers to create hyper-specific advertisements for the candidates they support. In some cases, it seems like this data swung entire elections.
One of the biggest threats to public safety and wellbeing that comes with digital developments is data security. Businesses, both large and small, that collect customer data need to be particularly wary. People’s names, birthdates, phone numbers, email addresses, credit card information, social security numbers, banking information, and medical history are always at risk of being hacked, stolen, sold, and misused.
If you manage people’s data for any reason, you need to understand where this data is stored, what cybersecurity measures are in place, and who has access to the information. You might be surprised to learn that the hosting platform your website exists on collects information about your visitors. If you had a web developer ask them about the security of visitors’ data. Make sure all the information about where people’s data goes is visible somewhere on the page. More and more individuals are learning about data rights, and you can bet this type of transparency will help your clients, customers, and visitors rest easier about sharing their information with you.
Computer-Aided Dispatch Systems
While many of the things we’re talking about are technologies that increase the risk to public safety, there are hardworking developers designing tech that aims to protect us. Systems called computer-aided dispatch systems or CAD systems, explain the experts from 10-8systems.com, are designed to help first responders and 911 dispatchers keep everyone safe and healthy. These systems begin compiling essential and useful information the moment a call is placed to 911.
Things like the call location, the device called on, and which officers are nearest the crime and ready to respond help law enforcement and emergency services respond as quickly as possible to incidents. As you can imagine, this is particularly helpful if the person calling isn’t able to speak or describe their location accurately. More and more agencies and emergency services are employing these systems and reporting positive outcomes. Emergency rooms in hospitals are also beginning to adopt this technology.
Medical History Theft
If you think this isn’t something you need to worry about, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the stats. More than 93% of healthcare organizations have experienced at least one data breach since 2016. In June of 2019—a single month—more than 32 million health records were compromised. This information is then sold on the black market, allowing people to forge medical histories and prescriptions. There are even instances of government bodies using this stolen information to extort or compromise people with health issues.
On a personal level, ask questions about the medical facility’s security practices or health insurance company. In the same way, you read over your credit card statements, you should be reading any bills that come from your hospital. If you notice something out of the ordinary, let your insurance company and doctor know.
Be Careful What You Post On Social Media
Almost no one reads those fifty-page terms and agreements pages when they sign up for social media accounts, but we all should be. In many cases, creating an account involves giving the platform permission to use your personal information as they see fit. Facebook has been found to be providing personal data to over 150 companies for an exorbitant price. Don’t assume that your private messages are private. These sales can include messages you’ve sent to friends, family, or colleagues. The only way to truly protect yourself is to think about anything you post, share, comment, or send. Once this information is out there, you’ll never get it back.
This is also an especially important note if you have found yourself amid a legal proceeding. Lawyers, insurance companies, and police forces are able to access this information and apply it to cases or investigations. A judge could interpret even something small like posting a cute dog video as you not being as damaged in a car accident as you claim to be. If you are interacting with the law, it’s best not to use social media at all unless otherwise instructed by an attorney.
The above list of digital concerns and protective measures suggested is only the tip of the iceberg. Every industry, individual, and business will have its own specific digital concerns. Take your time to research any organization you share private data with and adjust your behavior to suit what you learn. Never underestimate the power of asking questions. As more and more people learn about digital safety and put pressure on companies to be transparent in their data dealings, the bigger the positive impact we can have.