Protect your valuable information from thieves and hackers!

The Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act aims to ensure that all South African institutions behave responsibility when collecting, processing, storing and sharing personal information; and to hold them accountable if they abuse or compromise personal information.

While this legislation is commendable, it does not replace our individual responsibility to protect ourselves by carefully guarding our strategic information. Not to mention the responsibility to protect information entrusted to us by employers and clients.

There are two important questions we should all be asking ourselves regularly: do we share information too easily? And, do we adequately protect our strategic information, and that of our clients and employers?

In a world where you require a password for everything from checking in online for a flight, to accessing your medical aid information, it’s often tempting to use the same password over and over. If you’re going to do this (and you really shouldn’t), at least make it a little harder for identity (and device) thieves by using different variations of the password!

And, on the subject of passwords, as irritating as you may find having to repeatedly enter passwords to unlock your laptop or mobile phone, using a password lock could buy you some valuable time to recover your devices should they be stolen. Solid passwords will also secure your devices from hackers.

Here are some tips from well-known IT publication, Computerworld, on how to create smart passwords:

  • Use keywords related to a theme.Choose a common, significant event: a honeymoon, the birth of a child, a new car, a new job. For example, ideas associated with a new car could be deepblue, 6CDs, 5speed and TiresThatGrip.
  • Substitute numbers for letters based upon their appearance.With a little imagination, you can visualize numbers that bear resemblance to letters. For example, a 4 for an A or a 3 for an E.
  • Substitute numbers for letters based upon their location on the keyboard. The uppermost row of letters on the keyboard, QWERTYUIOP, has a row of numbers right above it: 1234567890.
  • Consistently capitalize the nth letter(s) of your password.Some systems require that at least one character be uppercase. Many people capitalize the first character, but this is too predictable. Instead, always capitalize the second, third or fourth letter, or perhaps always the last or next-to-last.
  • Consider using password management software. Using software like Last Pass means you only have to remember one password. The software generates and stores passwords to other sites for you and automatically enters the relevant password when you visit the specific site. You can upgrade and pay for all the bells and whistles but the free version offers many helpful features, including access across devices.

Tony McManus, MD of McManus consulting has some tips of his own to secure your valuable data (and devices):

  • Share information judiciously. Just because someone asks for information does not meant that you have to provide it. Provide only what is necessary and question how it will be used, and stored.
  • Use a secure service like Google Drive or Drop Box to save important files.
  • Use a laptop lock cable all the time.
  • Make sure that your business insurance covers the loss of your laptop and software, and recovery of data, as well as other devices like phones and tablets.

© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting.  |  Image created by