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Making Security Personal Translates to Business Protection

With data breaches and online password and security compromises in the news in recent months, online security and privacy has been front of mind for many.


A victim of identity theft, insider espionage and fraud, John Sileo takes his knowledge, experience and lessons and helps others avoid similar issues. A keynote speaker at the March SHARE conference in Anaheim, Sileo is president and CEO of The Sileo Group, a firm that helps with privacy and reputation management.

On two separate instances, Sileo has dealt with personal security or data issues. In the first instance, a woman bought his Social Security number and, possibly with the help of someone at a bank or title company, purchased a home in another state in his name. She defaulted on the loan and started bankruptcy proceedings as Sileo. She then began committing crimes using his Social Security number. Now 10 years later, he’s still recovering. While Sileo learned a lot about recovery, it didn’t translate into prevention, he says.

Not long after the first instance, someone from the District Attorney’s office informed him he was the lead suspect in a separate investigation for having embezzled $300,000 and stolen $300,000 from clients of his family’s business. Sileo’s business partner had used Sileo’s banking login credentials, identification and computer access. Sileo repaid all of the clients; the partner never paid back anything.

An Ounce of Prevention

Because of these experiences, Sileo wanted to prevent others from going through what he did. And the risk is greatly increased from 10 years ago when his information and reputation were compromised. Our vulnerability to information being spread is increased with the multiple computers, tablets, smartphones, music players and often even household appliances or other devices that communicate to the Internet.

Beyond our constant connection to devices and the Internet, Sileo says our biggest data risks are lack of human ownership, empathy and stickiness. He says people do not own or take responsibility for data in a personal way, both in a business or personal setting.

“If you as an individual do not care that you do not have a password on your smartphone, how are going to care about somebody else's data that you are handling in a database in your job?” Sileo asks. “You do not have any empathy. There is no connection between the data you are handling every day and what that would mean to you if somebody lost your data.”

Stickiness helps with safety and protection. Sileo teaches how to make protection and passwords sticky, or memorable to the mind, so that people remember them and use them. “The tendency is that we make them short, easy to remember, and the same across all of the sites and logins that we have,” he notes. “A really good answer is to have people make long, strong, not easy to guess and varied by every site passwords.

Valerie Dennis Craven is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.

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