Strengthen your Security with These Data Privacy Tips

We began 2019 with renewed efforts to enhance our community’s understanding of data privacy and how to navigate security threats and pitfalls. Recent efforts include the celebration of Data Privacy Day on January 28ththis year, which coincided with the beginning of Tax Identity Theft Awareness week (January 28-February 1). Data privacy is always on our minds, but these events provide an opportunity to reflect on what we can do within our institution to protect our data.

Data Privacy Day was sponsored by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). According to, the day commemorates the signing of Convention 108, “the first legally binding treaty dealing with privacy and data protection.” NCSA urges consumers to understand that while Data Privacy Day is a single-day event, protecting our privacy is something that has to be done all year long.

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week seeks to increase awareness of common threats to consumers during tax season. According to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), “tax-related identity theft occurs when someone steals a Social Security number and uses it to claim a tax refund or get a job”. You can find more useful resources for staying safe during tax season on the US-CERT website.

On our campuses, we have some well-known guidelinesthat must be followed, but the battle doesn’t end there. According to Chief Information Security Officer Kevin Hardcastle, “When we are talking privacy, it is not just HIPAA for patients or FERPA of students. All 50 states have some privacy laws and depending on the type of breach, there are many different requirements—to report to the those impacted and the state’s attorney general.”

Some of the best solutions for protecting your privacy online and keeping data safe can be easily integrated into daily tasks. Hardcastle says the top three things people can do to protect their data privacy are:

  1. Use multifactor authentication for sensitive accounts and e-mail.
  2. Think before you click on links in an e-mail or respond to e-mail asking for user ID and passwords.
  3. Set your privacy settings in social media to not share personal information with everyone.

Our new Information Security Office websiteis a fantastic resource for learning more about data privacy. You will find useful information about how to protect yourself online and what to do if you think you have been compromised.

Hardcastle says, “Data privacy is everyone’s responsibility; if you see or hear something, please notify the Information Security Office at infosec@wustl.eduso we can investigate.”