European Privacy. What the GDPR is and why it matters.

The recent case of Apple vs FBI has brought about some interesting questions.

  • How much privacy should people be allowed?
  • Is privacy a divine right for every person?
  • Should companies be building backdoors for certain organisations to have hidden access to information?

All interesting talking points to be sure, but on our side of the atlantic the European Parliament has recently passed a new data protection ruling that allows stricter personal control over our own information. But with acronyms such as GDPR, DPD and DPO flying around it is easy to get lost in the jargon and miss exactly what this means for people like me and you.

In generalities the European Parliament has increased the level of privacy and protection allowed to European members and nationals. Meaning that any company, whether they're based and operate in Europe or not face hugely increased sanctions if found guilty of information trading or breaches of privacy. Sanctions that can cause fines of up to £20m or 4% of their worldwide turnover (whichever is more) if found guilty .

Now what is classed as personal or private information? Here are a few things that are now further protected by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR):

  • Your full name
  • E-mail addresses (Personal and Work)
  • Bank Details
  • IP Addresses
  • Anything posted on Social Networks
  • Medical Information
  • Photographs

If any of these things are sold, used or given to any company without the subjects knowledge and consent that company is then liable for fines and will be breaking European law.
One caveat to that is the niggling 'terms and conditions' small print we tend to ignore every time we sign up to a new account or download some new software.

Oftentimes, social media accounts and other organisations will write in a sample line such as: "By agreeing to these terms and conditions you are allowing 'company x' permission to use your photos etc" or "anything posted on here will become the property of 'company x'" so as always, just beware of posting anything on the internet that is particularly private to you.

Now here at Maven we certainly believe this is a good sized step in the right direction for individual privacy but there have also been subtle changes written into the GDPR such as changes to the 'right to be forgotten' ruling.

This has been morphed into the 'right to erasure' which now requires individuals to argue a case to have their personal data permanently deleted from an organisations database and erased from the web. This is different from the original rule inasmuch as the EU Parliament can now decline the individuals request if it deems the organisations interests are more pertinent compared to the previous ruling that required organisations to 'forget' an individual at their request.

And finally, seeing terms like 'European Parliament' might make you wonder about what effect the upcoming BREXIT referendum will have on this recently enforced regulation?

The answer is simple:

Whether we leave the European Union or stay in, the UK will still be subject to European Law meaning that all of the above will continue to apply to the whole of the UK.

4 keys to Mac security

In our previous article we looked at the arguments for and against legislating encryption. We thought it would be good to look at a few things that you can do to help keep your Mac secure.

Mac OS X by default is relatively secure but there are a few extra things that you can do to make your Apple Mac more secure, particularly if it is stolen. As MacBooks get lighter and online services become faster and more capable, being able to work from a coffee shop or any other public place become far easier. However with your computer in this public environment it becomes more vulnerable, not just in terms of network security but also to physical attack. Here are 4 built in mac features you can enable to give you greater protection.

1. Enable the Firewall

This is particularly a good idea when using a public network as at home your router’s firewall should give you sufficient protection. To enable your firewall go to the security and privacy system preferences pane, click on firewall and unlock the page by clicking on the lock in the bottom left hand corner. Once unlocked you can click ‘Turn On Firewall’ - the standard option is suitable for most purposes, but if you want more options you can click on the firewall options which allows you to set up per application settings, enable stealth mode (which hides you computer from outside access attempts) and a setting to block all connections.


2. Enable FileVault

FileVault is a utility that encrypts your whole hard drive, including system files, applications, caches and other temporary files which may contain sensitive data. The FileVault is great at securing your data should your Mac be stolen. While your drive is locked (when your Mac is shut down) all the data is scrambled. This stops unauthorised third parties recovering the data either through ‘Target Disk’ mode or removing your drive and connecting it to another machine. 

To enable FileVault you need to go to Security and Privacy in system preferences and select the FileVault tab. Once unlocked using an Administrator user name and password you can click Turn On FileVault. You will then be asked to select which users can unlock the disk, you can add more at a later date if needed. Once you click continue your Mac will begin to encrypt the drive, if you have a large mechanical drive this can take several hours to complete.

3. Password Management

We often use numerous online services a day. For each one of these services ideally we should have a different password for each one and creating a strong password for each one often means a ridiculously long string of letters numbers and special characters. Fortunately OS X has a solution built in called Keychain.

Keychain is enable by default to store various passwords for online sources, email accounts, sharing services, and many other authentication routines. Anytime you see a check box for saving your password or prompt in Safari this is Keychain storing your password in a special encrypted file. 

You can manage your Keychain using the Keychain Access utility. In the preferences of the Keychain Access utility there is a handy little option to display the Keychain status in the menu bar. This puts a small lock icon on the menu bar which when clicked gives you the option to lock the keychain. This is helpful if you walk away from your computer and don't want anyone who can sit at your computer to have a access to online services you may have stored the password for in your keychain. 

If you have an iCloud account you can also enable Keychain Sync which will sync all the data stored in your keychain across your devices. So if you store login details on your Mac they will be accessible on your iPhone.


4. Locking and Locating

There are a couple of final options that are useful to enable to help protect your Mac. 

Firstly it is a good idea enable the ‘Require Password’ option in the general tab of the Security and Privacy panel in system preferences. Also setting it to a shorter time or immediately means that your system is secure quicker after it goes to sleep.

Secondly enabling ‘Find My Mac’ in the iCloud system preferences will allow to log into or use the Find My iPhone app to locate your device. This great if it is stolen and also allows you to remotely lock the computer or remotely wipe the device. 

Unfortunately there is little Apple can do to prevent your Mac from being stolen but OS X has lots of features built in to help the protect the data on your Mac if it does get and also gives you chance to possibly retrieve it using Find My Mac.

3 simple tips to keep your network secure.

3 simple tips to keep your network secure.

As the power of the internet continues to grow and the amount the internet is used in our lives increases, the threat of malicious software and virus increases. Unfortunately having a secure network isn't as easy as installing an antivirus and forgetting about the risks. Here are 3 simple tips that you can use to keep your businesses or personal network secure.