As a cleared professional, you know how important it is to protect your data and systems from cyber threats. You should also understand that you are a prime target for foreign intelligence collectors and adversaries who want to steal your secrets, sabotage your missions, or compromise your security clearance. But how do you balance the need for data privacy with the desire to live a normal life in the modern technological world?

Data Privacy

Data privacy is a matter of security, personal choice, and freedom. You have the right to control who has access to your data, what they can do with it, and how they can use it. You also have the right to enjoy the benefits of technology, such as convenience, entertainment, communication, and education. However, these rights come with responsibilities and risks. You must be aware of technology’s potential threats and vulnerabilities to your data and systems and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. You also must be mindful of the impact of your digital footprint and online behavior on your professional reputation and career prospects.

5 Data Privacy Tips

Getting too caught up in being secure and forgetting to live your life is easy. It is also easy to get too complacent and forget to be secure. The key is to find a balance that works for you and your situation. Here are some tips to help you achieve that balance.

1. Educate yourself.

Learn about the latest trends and developments in technology, cybersecurity, and data privacy. Stay informed of the best practices and standards for data protection and security clearance requirements. Read articles, blogs, podcasts, and newsletters from reputable sources that provide relevant and timely information and advice for cleared professionals.

2. Evaluate your risks.

Assess your personal and professional data and systems and identify the most sensitive and valuable ones. Determine the level of protection and encryption they need and the potential consequences if they are compromised. Consider the threats and vulnerabilities you face and the likelihood and impact of a breach. Prioritize your risks and focus on the most critical ones.

3. Choose your tools.

Select the appropriate tools and applications that suit your needs and preferences. Look for the ones that offer the best features, performance, and security. Avoid the ones that are unreliable, outdated, or compromised. Read other users’ reviews, ratings, and feedback, and test the tools before using them. Compare the pros and cons of different options and weigh the trade-offs between convenience and security. For example, you may want to use encrypted storage apps, payment apps, web browsers, and messaging apps to protect your private data.

4. Customize your settings.

Adjust your tools’ and applications’ settings and preferences to enhance your privacy and security. Turn on the features that protect your data and systems and turn off the ones that expose them. Review the permissions and access you grant to your tools and applications and revoke the unnecessary or risky ones. Update your tools and applications regularly to fix any bugs or vulnerabilities. For example, you can enable two-factor authentication, disable location tracking, and install antivirus software on your devices.

5. Monitor your activity.

Keep track of your online activity and behavior and review your digital footprint and reputation. Check your accounts and devices for signs of unauthorized access, intrusion, or compromise. Report any incidents or anomalies to the appropriate authorities and take corrective actions. Delete or archive any data or systems no longer needed or relevant. Be careful of what you post, share, or download online, and avoid any content or communication that could jeopardize your security clearance or professional image. For example, you may want to avoid social media platforms linked to foreign adversaries, such as TikTok or Temu.

Finding Balance

Protect your data and systems from cyber threats while enjoying the benefits of technology. Don’t let an oversight impact your security clearance and professional reputation. Remember, data privacy is not a binary choice but a spectrum. You can find the balance that works for you and your situation.

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Shane McNeil has a diverse career in the US Intelligence Community, serving in various roles in the military, as a contractor, and as a government civilian. His background includes several combat deployments and service in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), where he applied his skills in assignments such as Counterintelligence Agent, Analyst, and a senior instructor for the Joint Counterintelligence Training Activity. He is a Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholar and has a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from the University of North Dakota. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in National Security Policy at Liberty University, studying the transformative impacts of ubiquitous technology on national defense. All articles written by Mr. McNeil are done in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Department of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or the United States government.