Securing Your Privacy – Data Privacy Day Puts Spotlight on Leveraging Software and Hardware Protections

Andy Barron, Global Communications Manager, Lenovo

How safe is your data? That’s the critical question that every business, organization and individual should ask themselves in today’s super-interconnected world.  And it’s the question at the heart of Data Privacy Day, held each year on January 28.

The theme of this year’s event is “Own Your Privacy” by helping everyone better understand how to safeguard their data to protect their privacy.  Started by the Council of Europe in 2007, the event will be observed in 47 European markets as well as the United States, Canada and Israel.

Data Privacy Day
Security and data privacy shown protecting a city.

To help people improve their data protections, organizations such as the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) provide a one-stop page to review and update your privacy settings. The page includes links to popular e-commerce sites, email and mobile services, search engines and social networks. Given that each of these many sites are collecting data, each consumer is urged to review and set privacy to the level they think appropriate.

While adjusting settings is an important part of maintaining privacy, another important step is to do all you can to secure your data.  Privacy and security go hand-in-hand. While privacy refers to an individual’s rights in controlling their personal data and how it’s used, security refers to how data is being protected.

Such security starts on the software side by making sure you keep your software up-to-date.  That’s because the security landscape changes every day, with new threats arising, but also new security updates being made to address those threats.

Software certainly plays a key role in keeping your data safe, but security features built into the hardware of your system can play a critical role in protecting your privacy.  Lenovo believes in security by design, with privacy and security built in from the start of the design phase of products.

One example of hardware security is the ThinkShutter, which Lenovo introduced in the last year.  The ThinkShutter is a physical screen that you slide over your laptop’s camera, blocking it.  While this seems almost primitive, the ThinkShutter prevents hackers from using your own camera to spy on you.

“While there are certainly examples of hackers using online cameras to spy on people and look at the contents of their house, the main thing hackers are doing by looking through your laptop camera is to see if you are there and using your PC,” said Jason Ruger, Lenovo’s Chief Information Security Officer and a member of NCSA’s board. “That’s because they want to run a series of scripts to take over your PC, something that will very obviously appear on your screen if you are sitting there.”

While there are certainly examples of hackers using online cameras to spy on people and look at the contents of their house, the main thing hackers are doing by looking through your laptop camera is to see if you are there and using your PC.

Lenovo has a history of firsts when it comes to security hardware, many of which were very sophisticated. The first fingerprint reader, for example, which is now a key component in biometric verification.  Another was the first TPM chip, which stands for Trusted Platform Module, a dedicated microcontroller that secures hardware through integrated cryptographic keys.

Just as the ThinkShutter provides a simple solution to a security problem, so does having a hard switch rather than just touch screen on the Lenovo Hub. This helps ensure that this communications hub is turned off when desired. And sometimes the feature you don’t add makes a device more secure, such as the Lenovo Smart Clock, which is more secure because it did not include a camera.

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