I’ve always been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Like a performance review for our personal lives, they provide a great opportunity to reflect on what we’ve done well in the previous 12 months and what we can do better in the upcoming 12. The end of the year is also a good time to look at the role security plays in your life. Did you start off 2013 well intentioned, but grow lax after a few uneventful months? Or were you consistently naïve to your security needs? Even if you think you’ve been doing a commendable job, there is always room for improvement.
To help start 2014 on the safest footing, here are my top five security resolutions.
01. Be less trusting and more skeptical.
From the beloved nanny on New York’s Upper West Side accused of murdering two of the children in her care to the highly recommended Pennsylvania housekeeper charged with stealing $500,000 in jewels from her clients, the past year continued to prove that those closest to you (and those you trust the most) can inflict the greatest damage. Make people work harder to gain entrée to your life.
02. Vet, vet, vet.
To that point, I am constantly advising my clients (and Worth readers) to commission thorough and professional background investigations on people before allowing them into your home or business. But if I took a poll of how many actually heed this advice, the results would be dismal. Maybe this fact will get people to change in 2014: Eighty-six percent of all captured home intruders have been in the home before. Think again before putting out the welcome mat.
03. Stop using unprotected lines of communication to send personal information.
General DSL lines, wireless connections and WiFi hotspots in hotels should all be considered unprotected. And “personal info” includes everything from bank accounts to medical histories to family pictures. Install a secure firewall box into the existing routers at your home and workplace to establish a safe connection. It’s one of the best and easiest ways you can protect yourself against increasingly skilled hackers.
04. Scrutinize your children’s social media presence.
I’m going to make a recommendation that will make me very unpopular among the 18-and-under crowd, but I don’t really care: Parents should not allow their children to be on social media sites. I’m convinced social media causes more harm than good, and I see proof of this constantly. Stalking, kidnapping, bullying and sexual assault can all start on Facebook or Twitter, and one bad post can cause irreparable damage to your child’s reputation and life. If you are unwilling to cut your kids off, though, you must closely monitor their activity. Know who their “friends” are, what they are doing and what they are talking about.
05. Travel with an extra layer of caution.
Don’t travel anywhere outside the U.S. without incorporating due diligence into your planning. Determine first if it is safe to go, and second, how to safely return (in a hurry if necessary). Employ a security or intelligence firm that can provide real-time—not historical or data-based—information to help make these plans, and hire an independently vetted driver, not one provided by the hotel or resort. This isn’t to say, don’t travel. We don’t need to be fearful, just informed.
None of these resolutions should come as a shock, but they should serve as a wake-up call—especially if you haven’t followed them in the past. So, in between “exercise more regularly” and “get more sleep,” make room for these five. By 2015, you’ll thank me.