Here is a rule of thumb that is more important than ever on today's Internet: Do not post anything on the Internet that you do not want others to find out about you.
Do not post it on your public Facebook profile, not on Twitter, do not use real life accounts when you make awkward purchases on the Internet, and do not synchronize data with the cloud that you do not want anyone else to access.
Why? It should be clear that anyone can access public data, including companies, organizations and future employees. If they find something that they do not like, you can be sure that you won't get that job that you wanted so badly. It can also have implications on your private life, bullying in class for instance or a divorce.
Forbes is reporting today that "the Federal Trade Commission gave a stamp of approval to a background check company that screens job applicants based on their Internet photos and postings". The company gets hired to perform background checks by crawling social media sites, networks and other public sites for user information.
But what about data that is secured by an account, like Dropbox for file hosting? Two dangers come to mind: First hacking, which has been happening a lot lately. If hackers manage to break into a site, they can do all kind of things, including accessing your information and maybe even your files.
Second bugs that lead to data being publicly accessible. The latter actually happened yesterday. Dropbox notified their users in a blog post that an update that they applied to their service had the result that for a brief period of time (according to Dropbox, Techcrunch states four hours) account log ins without the correct password were possible. Someone else could have accessed your Dropbox account during that time, which included accessing and downloading files hosted there.
Dropbox in the meantime has emailed all users who might have been affected by this.
If you need to sync or host files online, use encryption if the files are important to you. Check out BoxCryptor, Dropbox Realtime Encryption or SecretSync, Security Layer To Protect Sensitive Files On Dropbox for software reviews that do that automatically.
The majority of Internet users seem to lack an understanding of privacy, considering that many post public information on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, without giving a thought to possible consequences. The information are there for a very long time, which means that employees might base a decision to hire or fire on something that you have posted on Twitter or Facebook several years ago.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.