5 tips to protect your devices from cybercrime

(BPT) - Your smartphone, your tablet, your computer - they are some of your most important and most used possessions. They are the daily tools you use for research, to connect with others and make purchases. You take them everywhere and fill them with your important, personal information.

And all of that makes them the perfect targets for a cyberattack.

The number of cybercrime incidents in the United States grows each year, and as Americans move into an increasingly digital society - thanks to smart phones, smart cars and smart in-home technologies - cybercrime is expected to grow in frequency again in 2017. Protecting yourself, your family and the vital information on your devices means increasing your focus on your own cybersecurity. That starts with these five tips.

* Recognize you're not immune.
 Cyberattacks increase in frequency and severity every year, so don't make the mistake of believing it can't happen to you. "It's important to protect yourself by taking personal responsibility for your data; we can't expect banks or other institutions to do it for us," said Jim Karagiannes, Ph.D., professor in DeVry University's College of Engineering & Information Services. "We lock our doors and take other security measures to protect our home and car. We need to also take precautions with our personal security and information."

* Don't store your username, password or credit card information with a website.
 The convenience makes it tempting, but websites are a popular target for cybercriminals because a successful hack gives them access to hundreds or thousands of files, including yours. Even storing this information on your own computer can expose it in a cyberattack, and if your credit card information is captured, criminals can use it to gather your social security number. That exposes you to identify theft. Keep this information off your devices and, instead, create complex passwords and write down all of your usernames and passwords on a piece of paper that you keep in a safe place, such as a deposit box.

* Use only a credit card, not a debit card, when making online purchases.
 Using your credit card instead of your debit card allows you to keep better track of the purchases you have made. It also limits the effects of any possible theft to just the one card instead of several. If you have no choice but to use a debit card for an online purchase, do not use your pin number online.

* If it feels like a trick, it probably is.
 Cybercriminals often engage in "social engineering" or other non-electronic methods to try and trick you into surrendering your data. If you get a phone call about a banking or credit card issue or if your computer tells you to call a number because it just caught a virus, be cautious. Do not divulge any personal history or credit card details. Hang up or ignore the computer-generated notices and call the customer service number of the institution's website with any questions.

* Replace your existing credit cards with chip cards as soon as possible.
 Chip cards are becoming the new normal these days, and if your current credit card does not have a silver square chip on its front, consider replacing it quickly. Popularized in Europe, chip cards possess the necessary encrypted information to eliminate delays in the transaction process. Doing so closes the window criminals need to steal your personal information, thus protecting you from identity theft. 

You have no intention of abandoning your devices, of course, so protect them. Following the tips above will help better secure your technology and personal information from the threats of cybercrime so you can enjoy your devices with greater peace of mind.

Who Was the Founding Father of the Fourth Amendment?

February 5 marks the birth of the American who had the greatest hand in what became the 4th Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures – James Otis. Unfortunately, “one of the most passionate and effective protectors of American rights” is too-little remembered today.  

Otis’ efforts applied the celebrated English maxim, “Every man’s house is his castle” – or, as William Pitt said in Parliament in 1763, that “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the crown” – to the colonies, in resistance to Crown-created writs of assistance. They were broad search warrants enabling customs officials to enter any business or home without advance notice, probable cause, or reason, which Otis asserted were unconstitutional.

Otis was an advocate general in the vice-admiralty court with responsibilities including prosecuting smuggling, to which Britain’s onerous trade restrictions had turned many. But when the Crown imposed writs of assistance to crack down, Otis resigned his post in protest and represented, without charge, Boston merchants’ efforts to stop the writs. For five hours he argued that they violated citizens’ natural rights, putting them beyond Parliament’s powers. A young John Adams listened to Otis’ oration, at which “the child's independence was then and there born.”

Otis lost the case, but public wrath discouraged officials from employing the writs. Otis then became influential, his role growing with American grievances. He led the Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence in 1764. He wrote pamphlets. He argued against Parliament’s power to tax colonists, particularly in
The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, and was a leader at the Stamp Act Congress. Otis joined Samuel Adams to pen a circular to enlist other colonies in resisting the Townshend Duties.

John Adams said, “I have never known a man whose love of country was more ardent or sincere, never one who suffered so much, never one whose service for any 10 years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country, as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770.” Why then is he not better remembered? Because he then began suffering bouts of mental illness which ended his contributions before the Revolutionary War, whose many American heroes have eclipsed him in memory.

However, “search and seizure” issues permeate Americans' liberties today. These include the exclusionary rule’s prohibition against admitting evidence gathered in violation of the 4
th Amendment at trial and injured parties’ power to sue officers involved for damages suffered in unlawful searches. But they also include government spying on its citizens, as Edward Snowden’s leaks revealed, and questionable cell phone searches, in which, as Justice Anthony Kennedy’s words, “someone arrested for a minor crime has their whole existence exposed.” Such issues make it well worth revisiting Otis’ highly consequential insights.

James Otis’ argument was based on our liberty because we “are by the law of nature free born,” and that “[every] act against natural equity is void.” In consequence,

The end of government being the good of mankind … It is above all things to provide for the security, the quiet and happy enjoyment of life, liberty, and property. There is no one act which a government can have a right to make, that does not tend to the advancement of the security, tranquility and prosperity of the people
Otis took our liberty, drawn in broad brushstrokes, and applied it specifically to our homes and possessions. He asked, “Can there be any liberty where property is taken away without consent?” and asserted that “One of the most essential branches of … liberty is the freedom of one’s house,” which writs of assistance steamroll. As he put it,
A man’s house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ … would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses when they please … break … everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court may inquire.
Otis then asked what the consequence of violating those principles now articulated in our 4th Amendment would be. His answer was tyranny. “Everyone with this writ may be a tyrant.” And tyrannical violations of our rights that have occurred create no authorizing precedent.
[Even] if every prince…had been a tyrant, it would not prove a right to tyrannize. There can be no prescription old enough to supersede the law of nature, and the grand of God almighty; who has given to all men a natural right to be free.
Because “Tyranny of all kinds is to be abhorred,” Otis’ offered a principled and profound response:
I will to my dying day oppose, with all the powers and faculties God has given me, all such instruments of slavery on the one hand and villainy on the other, as this Writ of Assistance is.
The 4th Amendment is one of the most important playing fields on which the battle between liberty and tyranny is waged. That makes revisiting James Otis’ understanding critical. As Law Professor Thomas K. Clancy wrote:
James Otis first challenged British search and seizure practices and offered an alternative vision of proper search and seizure principles. No authority preceding Otis had articulated so completely the framework for the search and seizure requirements that were ultimately embodied in the Fourth Amendment.

Gary M. Galles
Gary M. Galles
Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. His recent books include Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014) and Apostle of Peace (2013). He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.