Most security, privacy and data breaches are a result of human error, but if that human is a PR professional, the costs of such data leaks and information thefts could be higher than an agency can account for. If you are a journalist, a marketing enthusiast, a research analyst or anybody from the PR sector, you need to be highly cautious about your clients’ privacy and your firms’ data because massive information leaks have almost become a cliché in the digital world.
Cybersecurity Tips for PR Professionals
Here is how you can play your part in maintaining cybersecurity standards:
1. Activate device-level security
There are excellent applications and software programs that offer device-level security. Password managers, 2 Factor Authentication apps, screen locks and biometric passcodes are common security apps that often come free and can simplify cybersecurity for non-techies as well. But if your devices contain sensitive information about corporate-level clients, vendor information, data and analytics, then we suggest you avoid free security programs and go for premium services that are exclusively designed for business users (Antivirus and VPN best buy deals will also work!).
2. Encrypt all online traffic
Configure VPN details on all devices you use, because often we switch between personal and professional devices and leave naked data. A VPN secures all online traffic you exchange via a device and protects data while it is in transit. This protective shield prevents unauthorized access and hides PR professionals’ online activity from internet service providers, and online trackers who are interested in your internet movements.
3. Don’t use public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks are weak in nature as they can be penetrated by hackers and attackers for data sniffing. If you are a PR professional, we strongly suggest you avoid using public Wi-Fi facilities available in restaurants, coffee shops, libraries and shopping malls because they are one of the biggest sources of data leaks and identity thefts. If you have to use a public Wi-Fi out of urgency, do so after carefully verifying the Wi-Fi SSID against the ones designated by the Wi-Fi provider to avoid evil twin attacks. Make sure to keep an antivirus program and VPN app actively running the background.
4. Protection against different types of malware
If you want to protect your data from ransomware, avoid accessing company portals and banking websites on personal and shared devices. Do not open malicious links for such would contribute to major identity thefts and data breaches. Also, refrain from torrenting on your company’s devices. Attackers on torrent websites are often disguised as leechers and seeders and large files you exchange on these platforms can fuel security breaches.
5. Use a Cybersecurity Checklist
Employees, whether in-house or remote, from all sectors, are suggested to keep a cybersecurity checklist and adhere to it to prevent data losses and confidentiality breaches. But when it comes to PR professionals, this cybersecurity checklist is of tremendous significance. In your checklist, add parts related to:
- Network security key, its security standards, and complexity
- Updates about different apps and software programs
- Handling and exchanging relevant data through electronic or physical means
- Discarding or deleting data available in electronic or physical forms
- Contact information of support staff or other personnel authorized to resolved IT or data-related issues
*Also make sure to add all the apps as listed in the other section of the article.
6. Secure Communication
PR professionals communicate frequently through VoIP and videoconferencing apps: Zoom, Skype, Google Meet. And considering the huge data loss of Zoom as they were not using encryption until losing a massive amount of data, we can comment that these platforms are not as secure as they should be. Therefore, it is ideal to use a secure communication tool for exchanging messages or using an encryption tool while using video-conferencing apps mentioned above. Even if your online traffic is encrypted, apply password protection to your files and exchange them through secure email clients rather than social media platforms.
7. Manage Passwords
Whichever platforms you are using, follow strict password management habits since cracking passwords is the first step any hacker would take to get into your accounts and obtain information. Here are 5 factors to consider when handling passwords:
- Create strong passwords based on a random sequence of characters, not on birthdays, addresses, spouse’s name, or other personal details.
- Use unique passwords for all accounts. Don’t repeat passwords and avoid creating similar passwords for social media accounts, for unauthorized access into one account can disrupt the security or other accounts.
- Create passwords using at least 10 characters including upper case and lower case alphabets, numbers, and symbols.
- Change passwords every 2-3 months and avoid noting them down in your personal diary, journals, or books if others have access to these.
- Check whether the site asking for login credentials (user IDs or passwords) is secure and starts with HTTPS.
- Turn off password auto-fill suggestions on your work devices.
Cybersecurity Suite For Remote PR Professionals
If you are working remotely (most likely from home), you will have to take immense care of your company’s data and client confidentiality. Digital experts suggest remote workers create a cybersecurity suite based on these software programs:
- An efficient antivirus program that can provide device-level security, diagnose new software programs for excessive consumption of bandwidth and battery, scan Wi-Fi networks before a device establishes connections, and checks applications for potential data leaks. Choose an antivirus that does not crash with a VPN running in the background.
- Secure cloud service for storage and backup of sensitive raw or processed data, reports, memos and financial statements
- A password manager for creating unique, complex passwords for different social media accounts and payment gateways, changing them regularly and auto-filling forms as per user preferences. Choose an app that allows synchronization between multiple devices.
- A VPN that has dedicated apps for all major platforms. It should be based in a safe jurisdiction; it ought to contain features like 256-bit Encryption, kill switch, split tunneling and has a zero-logs policy. If you are new to remote work arrangements and your company has not yet provided you with private network credentials, we suggest you check VPN best buy and subscription deals so that security remains affordable too.
- A 2 Factor Authentication app that works with all major platforms. Premium apps are preferable for they do not store and sell user data. Use this app on communication platforms like Skype and Zoom.
- Secure browser that supports DNS over HTTPS, does not have an ad-program, is registered in a safe jurisdiction and releases security and privacy updates regularly.
- Secure email provider created on open source technology, that allows end-to-end encrypted email bodies and subject lines, also does not have an ad-program, based in a safe jurisdiction and has strict security practices in place.
Though cybersecurity is highly important for workers in all sectors, it is paramount for PR professionals because their firms create and improve the digital presence of their clients, they appear on media and have living data centers: journalists, writers, interviewers, reporters and analysts around them. Most PR professionals have access to and process sensitive client data. These professionals should prioritize safety and privacy over cost and usability and should invest in security apps for the sake of their professional ethics.