What comes to mind when you think of hacking? Probably two hands maliciously poised over a keyboard in front of a computer screen with green Matrix-like text scrolling down, right? That’s because you’ve been fed a steady diet of cheesy stock photos from media outlets left without a better way to visually represent cyber threats.
But there’s a completely different kind of hacking that you — and the company you work for — may not be adequately prepared to combat: visual hacking.
Let me present you with two hacking scenarios. You tell me which one would be easier for a thief to pull off (even an relatively unskilled, non-techie thief for that matter).
Scenario one: a hacker develops a virus which infects thousands, or even millions of computers across the globe, enslaving them as part of a nefarious network known as a botnet. The hacker uses the combined computing power of their new network to attempt to crack your company’s digital security using a brute force (random password guessing) attack. This takes several hours or days and may or may not be blocked, either automatically or manually, by a savvy IT department.
Scenario two: a hacker uses their own smartphone to record you entering your phone pin, email password, password management software master password, etc., waits for you to look the other way and snags your phone.
Visual hacking is far easier for thieves to pull off than “traditional” software-based information theft. All it requires is a set of working eyes.
Is that person on the plane next to you reading your screen? How about the person in line behind you at the fast food restaurant? Could a ceiling-mounted camera be spying on you without your knowledge?
Here’s some facts for you to consider:
- Technology and worker mobility are allowing sensitive information to be accessed from more places and on more devices.
- Two-thirds of working professionals display sensitive information on mobile devices outside the office. (Thomson, Herbert H, PhD. “Visual Data Breach Risk Assessment Study.” 2010. People Consulting Services, commissioned by 3M.)
- Workers report a high incidence of their visual privacy being violated through visual hacking: 69% in the workplace, 55% while traveling, and 51% wile in a public places such as a cafe or hotel. (Risks & Rewards of Online & Mobile Health Services: Consumer attitudes Explored,” Ponemon Institute/Experian Data Breach Resolution Report, April 2014.)
- A visual hacker may only need one piece of valuable information to unlock a large-scale data breach. (3M Visual Hacking Experiment from the Ponemon Institute, Sponsored by 3M Company.)
- Visual hacking breaches are more difficult to track and quantify than a traditional electronic hacking due to the lack of telltale digital signatures.
- Visual hacking—the act of viewing or capturing sensitive, confidential and private information for unauthorized use—is an under addressed threat in the IT security plans and privacy policies of many organizations.
- Heightened public concern and media attention make privacy and security issues one of the top priorities for organizations today.
Visual privacy may be a new term to you, but it’s important in today’s digital economy. If you don’t want sensitive information to be accessed from your phone without your knowledge by a nearby person or camera, there is something you can do to help protect yourself (and your employer): get your hands on a 3M Privacy Screen Protector.
These privacy-enhancing screen protectors do more than just protect your screens from scrapes and scratches: they protect your identity, your finances and other important types of personal information.
I’ve recently been testing the 3M Privacy Screen Protector for iPhone 6 Plus. How it works is very, very simple. When you’re looking at the iPhone from the front, everything on the screen is visible. But when you turn the iPhone to the side, it grays out; only a very faint shadow of what is on the screen is visible (and not nearly enough to actually discern any information).
Here’s how to install your 3M Privacy Screen Protector (takes less than three minutes):
- Use the included cloth to wipe your screen down, removing all dust, hairs and other gunk capable of creating a bubble. Being thorough here will ensure the best possible installation.
Next, peel off the backing and line up the sticky side of the screen protector with the center of your phone.
Starting at the top and working your way down, press the sticky side of the screen protector against your phone’s screen. Use the included piece of cardboard to work out any air bubbles that develop while flattening and smoothing out the screen protector.
The screen protector won’t interfere with any of your phone’s functionality: your speakers, microphone, forward-facing camera and home button (including the fingerprint scanner) will all still work. The only small issue you should be aware of is that the screen will look just a tiny bit darker — not much, and certainly not enough to be a problem.
3M ,naturally, as the leader in the field, also makes privacy-enhancing screen protectors to protect your laptop and other devices from visual hacking.
If you’re a corporate leader now is the time to take action and save your company $5.7 billion (the average organizational cost per data breach). The last thing you want is to have your trade secrets or strategy revealed in a way that could have easily been prevented.
We’d love to hear about your experiences. Have you ever felt as if someone might be looking over your shoulder or reading your screen from the seat next to you? Have you actually been a victim of visual hacking?