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'Data Privacy Day' a reminder to be 'paranoid' about your digital presence [The Wisconsin State Journal]

By George Hesselberg, The Wisconsin State Journal
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Jan. 28--Monday is "Data Privacy Day," which is likely near the equivalent of "Take Your Unicorn to Work Day."

Various protective entities use today to remind that your digital presence is being probed, attacked, tempted, lured, sweet-talked then dragged into a virtual alley and relieved of password, purse and personal effects.

At UW-Madison, for example, where one official said "we cannot be paranoid enough," attacks on the system happen "tens of thousands of times daily."

Tracking a digital footprint has never been easier, warns the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, which maintains a little-noted Office of Privacy Protection.

That office logged nine "data breaches" affecting state residents in 2012, a list that is not all-inclusive. One of the nine happened at another state agency, the Department of Revenue, which was alerted by a consumer that its online real estate property sales report contained an embedded file that listed Social Security numbers.

Other Wisconsin breaches of note in 2012 include records from an ambulance company's patients, a casino's customers, employees of a food store chain, anyone who asked an auto insurance company for a price quote and more than 1,700 state customers of a home monitoring company. Also exposed were the state's share of 400,000 worldwide users of Yahoo! Voices, 6.5 million LinkedIn users and employees of Under Armour.

Some of these companies were hacked, but most of the breaches were traced to information contained on stolen laptops, according to the privacy office reports.

As recently as last week news broke that a city of Madison website exposed at least 50 Social Security numbers via a liquor license application posting. Wisconsin law requires businesses and government agencies to notify residents within 45 days if their personal information is compromised, putting them at risk for identity theft.

The first thing anyone reading this article should do, said Sandy Chalmers, division administrator at DATCP, is "change your password. Make it long, strong and complex, and use different ones for different accounts."

On average, an identity theft victim will spend 12 hours and more than $300 to resolve fraud, Chalmers said. She said identity theft is the crime that keeps on thieving, as stolen information is often passed along to crooks all over the world.

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At UW-Madison, spokesman Brian Rust put the data privacy intrusion in context:

"Today there are a lot more vulnerabilities and a lot more people looking to exploit those vulnerabilities," he said.

The university's Internet security campaign ("Find It, Delete It, Protect It.") starts with a program that scans for soft spots in outdated software, and another program that scans a hard drive for forgotten private data. You might be surprised, he said, how many stored emails include account numbers or other important identification numbers.

"At all the (campus) network ports there is software scanning incoming messages and attachments and stuff coming in from particular sites around the world."

"Collectively we are not paranoid enough," said Rust, "because if something happens, it is already too late."


(c)2013 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



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