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Leaky Data

There are small things we do as professionals that can get us into trouble, both at home and away from home. Here are a few things to think about.

1. Auto responding email. In an auto responding email we inevitably tell people we are “out of the office” and then provides the dates of our absence. This service is well intentioned and useful to professionals who want to ensure that clients are not being ignored while they are traveling. On the other hand, it informs people that you are a) not at your office so they can pass the work monkey on to you; and b) that you are out of town leaving you home empty for …

Solution. Ask someone (perhaps a member of your team or an administrative person within your group) to look at your messages and send appropriate responses. If you must use an auto responder, send a non‐committal message such as, “I monitor my email on an irregular schedule to maximize management of my time, I will respond to your email as soon as possible.”

2. Calendars. Many people have access to others calendars in an office environment. These people may include managers, subordinates, or even critical suppliers. This information, while shared with the best of intentions, provides opportunities for mischief while you are away.

Solution. Keep information on a need to know basis. Designate a person who can get in contact with you if your input is urgently needed.

3. Travel Plans. When you are traveling internationally, what can others learn about your intentions? Someone who wants to kidnap wealthy business people will value this information. This type of information often represents a menu of opportunities to people looking for a good target.

Solutions. Like calendars of appointments, travel information should be guarded and kept on a need‐to‐know basis. Only a select few team members are to know where you are going, why you are going, and where you are staying.

4. Photos and Metadata. We post pictures of ourselves, our families, and stuff we want to sell online. Most of those pictures contain metadata tags that give reasonably precise GPS coordinates for the location of the picture. You can take a picture inside a building, and the metadata embedded in the picture may provide anyone who can read the data knowledge of where the building is and when the picture was taken.

Solution. Turn off the GPS function on the camera or smart phone, and check before you post any photos to ensure that there is no GPS data linked to the photo.

Summary. We leak information all day long. We don’t do it intentionally… but it does occur, and we need to be aware of it. Awareness is all that’s needed to begin to the process of protecting ourselves. Prevent “informational leakage.”

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