By Krista Campbell
In a time when college-aged people post personal information on social media from which high school they attended to what they ate for breakfast, County College of Morris students may be aware of possible cyber theft that could impact accounts that hold private information but may not be so proactive when it comes to securing hackable information.
An online privacy survey, “Americans and Cybersecurity,” conducted by the Pew Research Center examined more than a thousand American adults in 2016. The survey found that 64 percent of those surveyed have experienced a major data breach at some point in their lives and that most of them either somewhat confidently or confidently trust in institutions including the federal government, cell phone and internet providers, and social media sites to keep their data secure. However, most of those surveyed feel the security of their data has declined in recent years.
Valentina Lombardo, a communication major at CCM, feels less secure with data security than she did just a few years ago.
“Credit cards are saved, even when you don’t realize,” Lombardo said. “Passwords are saved; your address is saved onto your computer with your phone number and everything; that’s why,”
Autosave for personal information can save time but can also be a security threat.
With there is a need to make an account with most applications and social media networks one chooses to use, the amount of passwords to create, protect and memorize can become overwhelming. Lombardo does admit that she shares passwords only for her Netflix and Verizon accounts with family but logs her passwords onto a computer notepad. Although useful, writing down private information may not be the best idea, especially on a hackable piece of technology.
The study finds that many Americans share their passwords in a similar fashion to Lombardo as 41 percent of responders claimed to have a password shared with a friend or family member and 25 percent of responders admit to having passwords less secure than they’d like out of convenience.
Remembering passwords for every single account can be daunting.
“Most times I find myself doing the ‘I forgot my password’ process all over again and having to change my passwords a lot,” said Paul Nunez, a biology major. “It is pretty frustrating.”
To remember passwords, Nunez often rotates between four different passwords but keeps each password far removed from anything commonly used. The study found this type of trend is common among Americans, as it said that 39 percent of responders say that they “use the same or very similar passwords for many of their online accounts.”
Nushin Simon, a computer science major at CCM, is not afraid of cyber hacking since she keeps her passwords secure and only shared between friends and family members.
“I make sure that everything is blocked only for my friends to see, like followers,” said Simon, who added that she keeps an active watch on both passwords and social media content.
Since Simon is among the 41 percent of Americans who share passwords within a network of trusted individuals, this is not too surprising.
Simon keeps her accounts as safe as she can from people she doesn’t want having access to her accounts. For instance, she said that the government should not have access to encrypted devices.
Simon is not alone in her decision to exclude the government from access to personal information.
According to the Pew Research Center, millennials and Democrats often express support for strong encryption when it comes to the government gaining access to private information from personal devices. “Americans remain divided on the issue of encryption: 46 percent believe that the government should be able to access encrypted communications when investigating crimes, while 44 percent believe that technology companies should be able to use encryption tools that are unbreakable even to law enforcement,” the study said. The thought of the government knowing personal information of the public is not particularly new; for a long time, there has been joking and speculation that the government is always listening. Except now the speculation should be that the government is always tracking, or at least they could be without encryption laws.
Simple steps to protecting personal data include encrypting accounts with strong passwords that have upper and lowercase letters, digits and symbols, according to How To Geek, an online magazine committed on providing articles and how-to’s. Something that can be easily figured out, such as a name, birth date or something obvious, should not be used as a password. Although easy to keep track of, using the same password for multiple accounts can be dangerous.
CCM students are conscious of these guidelines, but not all take precautionary steps to ensure digital privacy.