All a burglar needs to get in your home is an unlocked window or door. If you don’t install updates when they are issued, you’re leaving your digital home wide open for cyber criminals to break in.

And let’s face it: As journalists we have some very valuable information stored in our devices. I’m always surprised at how many of my fellow journalists don’t install an updated operating system or program because they don’t want the inconvenience of having to learn a new user interface. That short-term inconvenience is far outweighed by the risk of using an outdated system with known vulnerabilities.

Software and app updates often include “patches” to fix a known security problem. And the criminals watch for these updates to be published and then they search for people who are slow to install them.

If you want to keep your contacts, reporting and writing safe you should make sure that all the applications on your computer, tablet and smartphone are up to date. Consider it your responsibility, as a reporter, to your sources, colleagues, and newsroom.

Most devices have an update software option in their settings. Even better, if you don’t want to constantly monitor updates, you can select the auto update function (if it’s available) and it will automatically download updates.

Cyberspace isn’t the place to practice an open door policy. Think of installing updates like the physical badges and security in many of our newsrooms. They are in place so the wrong folks don’t stroll in, snoop around and help themselves to your hard work.

And: Lock your devices! The data you keep on your mobile device is more valuable to a cyber criminal than the device itself. But a recent survey showed only 44 percent of people in the U.S. surveyed set a PIN or passcode on their phone. In the United Kingdom that number is even lower.

Many say inconvenience is the reason they don’t take this simple precaution. I believe it’s far more inconvenient to clean up after a criminal who has your stolen device than remembering a PIN code. How embarrassing would it be to tell a sensitive source their contact information and your communications with them was compromised because you didn’t lock your smartphone, tablet or laptop?

If you keep source contacts, interview notes, private communications, and financial information in your mobile devices—please always lock it with a PIN, passcode or fingerprint. You can find the passcode lock option in the Settings app on most devices.

And remember new employees in your news organizations should be trained to lock their device on their first day of work. They need to understand—it’s exactly the same as locking their home, car and newsroom front door.


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