Strategies on Dealing with Sensitive Data

Unless you are living under a rock or in a cave somewhere off grid, the not so United States of America chose a very eccentric leader earlier this week which made the last few days more or less a circus. Yes, Donald Trump won the US presidency and a lot of people are upset causing volatility and shockwaves not just in the US but also across the world. What happened on election night with the Canadian Immigration website was extraordinary and describes the sentiment of non-Trump supporters. The website was reported to have crashed as it could not cope with the surge in traffic from the US, this support talks of some Americans wanting to move to Canada or anywhere else “rational” like Australia and New Zealand. I must say that I am grateful mum chose to migrate a couple of decades ago to Australia instead of the US! Thanks mum, I owe you peace, sanity and a good life!

So what went wrong for Hillary Clinton which caused her the oval office? I asked my American colleagues about their opinion of Hillary and one key denominator is trust. Clinton’s email controversy triggered a south bound ripple effect on the polls. The fact that she had set up a private server for personal and official communication while serving as a Secretary of State, instead of an official government account where classified information is deemed to be secure, was uncovered and scrutinized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation not just once but twice. Of course, Clinton’s opponents and the media feasted on this opportunity, even if the FBI cleared her twice. Regardless if she is innocent or not, damage was done. Clinton was regarded to have been “extremely careless” by the FBI and dodgy and suspicious by her critics.

Clinton’s mishap is a lesson for all. Security of sensitive data is a growing concern in a data-centric world like ours. In a much smaller scale like at home or at a personal level, there are ways we can do to protect sensitive data, such as:

  • If it is not necessary to collect and store the data then don’t – determine what is important and delete, delete, delete
  • Encrypt to prevent unauthorised access – data encryption is said to be the most effective way of securing data as access to a secret key or password is required. But don’t unknowingly give away that key or password (IE. writing it in your wallet or notepad for everyone else to see).
  • Store securely – there are a number of ways to achieve this from data masking, having backups from secure locations, use of security tokens, VPN, etc. It is ideal to research and seek advice from data security experts which can help you determine what is the best way for your situation.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has further information on securing information, which can be accessed via the website https://www.oaic.gov.au/agencies-and-organisations/guides/guide-to-securing-personal-information). I highly recommend to visit and read through the fact sheets as it tackles Privacy Act, personal information security, information lifecycle, risks, types of security and so forth.

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