Privacy Perils: Surfin’ USA (and beyond)

August 16, 2019
Firm Publication

While many companies are careful to protect data through encryption and password technologies, these tools don’t protect information from someone simply snapping a photo over your shoulder. This low-tech/high-reward method of stealing information is a version of “visual hacking,” and is a security threat often ignored.

Working from a private or secure location such as at your home or private office poses little to no risk. However, working in public places, such as coffee shops, hotel lobbies, airports, or on airplanes, for example, risks data theft. Even checking your email in a crowded elevator is perilous. In a recent study, a group tried to glean confidential information using only visual hacking methods. Surprisingly, they were successful nearly 90% of the time and it took them less than 15 minutes to gather at least five pieces of sensitive data with unaided vision and capture that information with a typical phone camera.

The next time you work outside of the office, especially in close quarters in public spaces, think about your surroundings and who might be viewing your screen. Put yourself in the shoes of someone trying to peek at your data. If a privacy screen would keep you from peeping, it likely would stop a real shoulder surfer. If you don’t use a privacy screen, situate yourself so your screen isn’t visible to those around you. Similarly, shield your phone screen just as you would an ATM keypad. If your or your business’s information is important enough to justify your attention, it is important enough to protect it from the attention of others.

Privacy Perils imageCheck out our series, Privacy Perils, to learn what steps you can take to guard your personal and company data. For more information about this topic and other cyber security concerns, please contact Bob BrewerTony McFarlandElizabeth Warren or a member of our Privacy & Data Security team.