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Data Security For Notaries On The Go

Protect your Notary records from being hacked

Protecting the confidential information of signers and others you do business with is becoming one of your more important responsibilities. With cybercriminals siphoning off $400 billion a year, according to some estimates, that means doing more than just locking up your Notary journal and stamp, and making sure your client’s documents don’t get stolen.

Whether you work in an office or retail setting, or make a living as a mobile Notary, computers, tablets and smartphones are a fact of life. To help keep the sensitive information you store on your devices safe, the Notary Bulletin reached out to several data security experts for their best advice.

Sound data security starts with three essential questions, says Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, a nonprofit that educates computer users on how to stay safe.

  • What data do I have?
  • Where is it located on my various technology devices and elsewhere?
  • What am I doing to protect it, and is it enough?

“The first element of cyber security is identifying the critical information you have that needs to be protected,” Kaiser says.

Then you can take appropriate steps to protect that sensitive consumer information.

The NNA has developed a data-security self-assessment tool Notaries can use to evaluate their practices.

Security Basics
 

You rely on your smartphone or tablet to set up appointments, exchange documents, get instructions and generally communicate with clients and co-workers — and your pace is nonstop. But no matter how busy you are, you need to have a passcode or touch ID on your mobile device, says Stephen Pao, General Manager of Security at Barracuda Networks, Inc.

In addition, he advises, “Activate the ‘remote wipe’ functionality and protect your cloud accounts (for example, Google or iCloud) that the devices sync to with sensitive information.”

Kaiser also recommends using an app that can locate all your devices — tablet or laptop as well as your smartphone. That app also should be able to lock and remotely wipe your device should it be lost or stolen.

“A lot of those services are offered through your cell phone provider,” Kaiser says. But most have to be turned on. “You need to proactively make sure you do that.”

Connectivity Issues
 

If you're on the road heading to an appointment, the lure of caffeine and free WiFi at a neighborhood coffee shop may prove tempting. But it’s best to just stick with the coffee and find another way to connect to the Internet, Kaiser says, because you never know who’s cruising that WiFi connection.

“You should not use any WiFi connections that don't require a password,” he says. Those that do are “safer, but not great, because you still don't know who is on the network.”

Instead, he says, consider a VPN or virtual private network. It can create a more secure connection to your home network while on the road. Many companies offer these, and computer magazines regularly rate them, with information on pricing for this service (often under $10 monthly).

Or bump up your data plan on the cell phone to unlimited, Kaiser says. “A data plan on the cell is more secure than an open wireless network, because it's a direct connection from your phone to the Internet."

Check your phone to see if it can operate as its own WiFi hotspot. “Check your settings,” Kaiser says. “Many can operate in that mode if they need to.”

Family Isn't Always About Sharing
 

In most families, sharing is a common mantra, whether it’s snacks, clothes, cars or the TV remote. But if you use your home computer for your Notary business, it’s best to be selfish with it. Sharing it with family members makes you more vulnerable to viruses and data breaches.

Consider getting other family members a separate computer, something basic and inexpensive, experts agree. If you absolutely must share, Kaiser recommends using a password-protected laptop or tablet that signs in different users. That's not total protection from hackers and viruses, but it’s better than giving everyone free access, he says.

Also consider using what is known as multifactorial authentication, Kaiser says. With this approach, already offered by many email programs, you must prove who you are beyond your password. With Gmail, for example, it is called two-step verification. You give them your phone number when you sign up. Then, after you sign on and enter your password, they automatically text a code to your phone. You enter the code and you're in.

Social Media Risks
 

Many Notaries rely heavily on social media to market their services, but you should be careful what you post, Kaiser says.

For instance, you may want to post about a notarization appointment to raise awareness of your business. Kaiser suggests leaving out the location of the appointment. After all, he says, “it could be divorce papers” or other paperwork your clients would rather keep extremely private. And broadcasting locations, especially of prominent people, may not be appreciated.

Broadcasting your busy day on social media, in short, may be good for business but very bad for your clients' privacy and security.

Keeping Up To Date
 

Every person who uses a computing device has encountered those pesky updates. While they can be annoying, you should always download those patches and updates, says Eugene H.  Spafford, PhD, Professor of Computer Science and Executive Director of Purdue University's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security.

Mac and Windows devices have automatic patching, “but some [users] turn it off or postpone the patches. That makes you more vulnerable.”

Look at your settings, he says, to be sure no one else who might have access to your computer has turned off those updates.

For other tips on cyber security for your business, visit Kaiser's National Cyber Security Alliance.

For a more in-depth discussion of Notaries and data security, see the October edition of The National Notary magazine.

Kathleen Doheny is a Los Angeles-based journalist and business writer.

3 Comments

Add your comment

Laurie Hecht

16 Oct 2015

I am looking to become a professional mobile notary in the Jacksonville, FL area. Please advise what next steps are needed. I am a former Mortgage Closing manager for Bank of America and very experienced with loan documentation. Thank you for your assistance.

National Notary Association

16 Oct 2015

Hello Laurie. This Bulletin article on starting a mobile Notary business may be a good place to start: http://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/01/creating-successful-mobile-notary-business. We also have additional articles on building your business here: http://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/building-your-business

Richard Parker

14 Mar 2017

One other item you can add to enhance security on the home computer is to set up a separate connection on your router for guests or family and keep the password for your business connection separate. That way, they still have access to the Internet whole keeping the business side secure.

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