Friday, 12 July 2013

Protect yourself

Because nobody else is going to do it for you.

Ask yourself this. Who else really WILL protect you? The Police don’t, they are usually only involved AFTER a crime is committed. Likewise your security company, they’ll turn up AFTER the alarm has sounded and even if they rush they’ll get to your home or office after your laptop and cellphone have long disappeared. Protecting yourself is about preventing losses in the first place, not just trying to recover after a disaster has occurred.

We heard recently from a consumer who had bought a laptop on a credit deal from a furniture store but a few months later it was stolen. The store were taking their time about replacing it under the insurance policy that came with the credit scheme but that wasn’t the big issue. The big issue is that she had been using the laptop to do her coursework while studying at UB. You can guess what the problem was, can’t you? She didn’t have a backup. All her coursework was lost.

We’ve probably all done this. We’ve neglected to make a backup, a computer has failed or we’ve accidentally deleted a document and we’ve lost it all. But that doesn’t make it forgivable. In my day, when I was first working with technology making backups was an enormous pain in the rear. You have to use floppy discs (“stiffies” if you’re South African, something that still makes Brits laugh), or enormous external tape drives. It cost money, was hugely inconvenient and there was a real incentive to be careless.

Then came external disc drives. These are much cheaper, can hold vast amounts of data and are much more portable. But they’re still a bit of a pain.

Not any more. These days making a backup is the simplest thing in the world. So-called Cloud storage is the solution. Your wirelessly enabled laptop or desktop computer attached to your company network can connect to vast amounts of storage, out there in the Cloud somewhere. Services like Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft’s Skydrive and Dropbox all offer entirely free storage for modest amounts. All you need to do is sign up, store your documents in a particular folder on your computer and while you’re watching TV they synchronise your data with your Cloud backup.

Of course the downside is that these aren’t really backups, they’re synchronisation and sharing tools. They’re fine for sending documents to your colleagues or customers but it’s not actually a backup. Whatever is in your drive on your laptop is in the Cloud. Also whatever you delete from your drive is deleted from the Cloud as well. If you delete your thesis from your laptop, the version in the Cloud will be deleted as well.

However there are online backup services, there are even some based in Botswana. These allow you to keep historical backups so you can actually get a copy of a document you stored at some time in the past. These services cost a bit of money but are worth a look. Personally I think the solution is a mixture. An external hard drive and one of the online Cloud services seems a good combination.

You’ll have seen the recent stories in Mmegi and on Facebook about card skimming. Card skimming is when a bank card is copied and the criminal manages somehow to obtain the PIN associated with the card. As you probably know there various ways of copying the details from your card. It might be a device the criminal inserts into an ATM that copies data from the magnetic strip on your card. It might be a device that a waiter uses in a restaurant to read your card while you’re not looking, it might even be an insider in your bank. However it’s done there are still ways you can protect yourself. The key thing is prevention rather than cure.

Even though I suspect that everyone knows the rules it’s worth repeating them.
  1. Never accept help from strangers at the ATM. If you are approached by anyone saying they’re a bank or security official ignore them and go to a different machine at a different location.
  2. Never swipe your card through any device attached to an ATM or through a device a “bank official” holds in their hand, this could be a skimming device.
  3. Never use the ATM if you suspect that it has been tampered with. Check the ATM before using it. If the ATM screen is bank, do NOT insert your card.
  4. Follow the ATM instructions and do not insert your card or enter your PIN until the ATM instructs you to do so.
  5. Stand close to the ATM and cover your hand when entering your PIN. You can use your purse or wallet over your hand or just your other hand, anything to prevent a criminal from seeing the PIN you enter.
  6. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by anyone, always be wary of a stranger asking for help.
  7. If you suspect any misuse of your card call your bank immediately. If your bank doesn’t have a 24 hour fraud line then change banks.
  8. Never let someone else phone the bank to cancel your card for you. Always make sure you do this yourself and keep a note of the date, time and the name of the person you spoke to.
  9. Avoid using an ATM in a dark or remote area at night.
  10. Always check that you get YOUR card back from the ATM.
And lastly, get insurance. Get insurance for your car, your house and your belongings. It might seem expensive but it’s a LOT cheaper than losing everything.

Just remember that if you don’t protect yourself how can you expect anyone else to do it for you?

No comments: