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5 ways to protect your polyPod


Decentralised storage of data has reduced the frequency and impact of data breaches remarkably, but users must still take precautions.

While polypoly catalysed a revolution in the way companies handle the personal data of users, it was no panacea for cybersecurity. The polyPods users instal on their devices follow best practices to make sure that the data contained in them does not fall into the wrong hands. However, most cyberattacks do not target the hardware or software that data is stored on, but are aimed at the person with access to the device.

5. Be aware of phishing attempts

Unfortunately, phishing is still the most prevalent form of cyberattack most people experience in their lives. You get a genuine looking email or message urging you to either click on a link, or open an attachment. Whether to steal your username and password, or install malware on your device, phishing attempts always rely on the blind spots in our psyche when presented with a sense of immediate emotional urgency. The best defence against phishing attacks and other forms of social engineering, for example a cyberattacker relying on tricking you into doing something rather than hacking into your device, is mindfulness. Be aware of what you are doing in the moment, and recognise when a message pushes your emotional buttons. These can be positive, such as the promise of a prize or free product. Or they can be negative — for example a warning that an account has been compromised, or that you are featured in an embarrassing video. Most email is boring and we are usually bored when processing it. If, for some reason, you feel a sense of urgency when confronted with the content of an email, and that sense of urgency is followed by a call to action like clicking a link and entering your username and password, or opening an attached file, chances are you are being phished.

4. Only use features from sources you trust

The polyPod is built to make sure you have full control over who can access your personal data. But it also has the capacity to use all that data to answer algorithmic questions. These algorithms are called features by polypoly, and if you get them from the official feature depot, they have been vetted to make sure that they do not abuse your data and trust. But polypoly does not restrict where you can get the features for your polyPod from. Anyone can offer features that interact with your data, so it is important to manage your trust settings. By default, the polyPod is set to not trust features from external providers. If you want to install features from alternative providers, you must set trust levels individually. It is also possible to delegate your trust settings to other users and organisations. Make sure that when you change your settings, they match those of the analogue world. By giving features access to run on your poly­Pod, you are giving them access to intimate data about your real life. Only trust feature providers that you would trust to take care of you in real life.

3. Use unique and strong passwords

Just like phishing attempts, password breaches are commonplace in the cyberworld. Organisations continue to lose databases of usernames and passwords, sometimes together with credit card information and other sensitive data. If your data ends up in a breach, and you use the same password everywhere, like so many people do, someone with access to that breached data can log into the accounts where you use the same password. This access can be used for blackmail, identity fraud, as well as phishing attempts against your family and friends. The best way to protect yourself against these data breaches is to use unique passwords every­where. The longer you make them, the longer it will take cybercriminals to crack them. But having lots of unique and long passwords is taxing on your memory, so how do you manage this in practice? The answer is to use a password manager — software that remembers these long and unique passwords, so you do not have to. Now, you’ll only need to remember a handful of passwords – for your email, your bank account, to unlock your computer, to access your polyPod, and for your password manager.

2. Keep your devices and software up to date

All software contains bugs, and some­times these bugs are bad enough that someone can exploit them and gain access to systems and data they should not be able to. As these security vulnerabilities are discovered, software vendors create patches that are sent out to user’s devices assoftware updates. Updating your apps or devices is like vaccinating them against known diseases. Not installing these updates leaves you open to infection by malware, or in the worst case, a hack. Besides updates, antivirus software that looks through your system for viruses and other forms of malware known to the IT security industry can provide added protection. So the next time you get a software update notification, make a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and take a break — knowing that a hole in your cybersecurity defence is being fixed.

1. Make regular backups

Your smartphones, smart TV, or smart fridge are at risk of being
stolen or breaking accidentally. With this, comes the risk of losing the data stored on these devices. This is why making regular backups of your data is important. Backing up data is like buying insurance. It is incredibly boring and does not add to your quality of life, right up to the moment disaster strikes. But once you have it, a part of the back of your brain can stop worrying, and spend energy on more important things. There are many options for backing up data: Download your phone data to your laptop, save your laptop’s data regularly on an external drive or network attached storage, or store everything in an encrypted container in the cloud. Whatever works for you, it’s worth doing before you experience catastrophic data loss.