Wow… this one scared me!!! I recently received a call from a friend in the past… the far far past. I had not spoken to this person in over 15 years so to hear their voice on my home answer machine scared me. It scared me not because this was a voice from the past but because I did not know my house phone number…. how did he get it? Seriously, anyone we had in common would not have my home phone number so they did not give it to him. What is going on here… I started getting paranoid. So what was left but to google myself. First off, as much as this blog post is about knowing what is out there regarding you… googling yourself is a scary activity. I found some crazy things out there and some crazy people that have my name. Don’t forget to click that “images” option. I giggle thinking about it as I write this post.
Anyway… googling yourself is important to understand what others can know about you. I constantly stress that security will always come down to the individual, come down to you. If you don’t know what others know, how can you protect yourself, your life, your job, your career. For instance, the website www.spokeo.com had way too much information out there about me. It “blocked” out some information. For instance, XXXX’d out the last four digits of my home phone number but if you paid for the service, you got everything (we have a winner!!!!) This site had a lot more information about me to the point that I felt that I needed to remove myself from the site. Sometimes I wonder if I should pay the fee to see what else you get but I just refuse to give them my money… then again, I should know what they have. They do allow you to remove yourself from the website (go to privacy section) but it is not permanent and you have to keep going back to see if you reappeared.
My point, you must be vigilant and protect yourself. As we have seen, protecting yourself is not just about protecting your credit card information, protecting yourself comes down to so much more. What if you are one that opens the attachment or clicks the link that lets in the bad guys… nobody wants to be that person. Say you get a personalized email or phone call and you think that there is no way someone would know about the information, you are more then likely… wrong. Think about it, they know where you work, where you went to school, where you live… they can call you up and say they are from the alumni organization and they want to get some additional information from you for their records. They know it, they know about you, you just didn’t know it. They are getting smarter and therefore you must be smarter. I know that it isn’t a solution but it is a start and that is all I am looking for. I know that spokeo pulls the information from other sources but I have to fight what I can. If you realize this information is out there (whether you choose to remove yourself or not) will only require you to think a little bit differently about security. I know we all like to think that we are all safe and sound in our internet bubble (well my mom does), I wish that were the case, but it isn’t and not to scare you, it is only getting worse. Take care of yourself and take care of your public information.
I thank websites like these mentioned for providing me great context during my conversations and for helping me prove my points. Without you, my friends from the past would not be my friends of the present (then again, I thought is what facebook was for).
ps… while we are on the topic of google… if you have a gmail account if you aren’t using the google authenticator … you are crazy