Updated August 29 at 7:42am

Five Questions With: Matt Cullina

CEO of IDentity Theft 911 talks about privacy in the digital age and how the issue will evolve moving forward.

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Five Questions With: Matt Cullina

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Matt Cullina is the CEO of IDentity Theft 911, a provider of personal-touch identity management solutions, identify theft recovery services and data risk management solutions.

In November, IDentity Theft hosted the Privacy XChange Forum, the company’s first big conference featuring national identity theft and privacy experts.

Cullina spoke with Providence Business News about privacy in the digital age and how the issue will evolve moving forward.

PBN: What expectations about privacy do consumers have in today’s digital age?

CULLINA: Customers should have expectations of privacy, but the challenge is whether those expectations will be met. In today’s world – with NSA surveillance and online tracking – the reality is that privacy expectations depend on the individual. Who you are and what you’re doing often determines how much privacy you’ll be afforded.

PBN: Regarding the protection of consumer data, where does corporate responsibility end and the government’s regulatory responsibility begin?

CULLINA: Government regulatory responsibility begins when it becomes evident that corporate enterprise runs counter to consumer protection best practices. The government needs to step in and protect citizens when corporations impede consumer rights, put consumers at risk of fraud, and fail to provide transparency for consumers or to secure consumer data. But it’s a balancing act that must take into account the need for businesses to make money and employ people.

PBN: Is there a balance to be found between privacy and convenience for Internet users?

CULLINA: There is a balance to be found, but it depends on the individual, and it can be a moving target. For example, it was recently reported that the during the height of the Cold War, the launch codes for U.S. Minuteman missile silos were set to 00000000 as a workaround to a required failsafe. That just goes to show how we've been struggling with this balance between convenience and security for a long time.

Consumers need to be decisive. It’s important for consumers to determine their own personal privacy policy that helps direct decisions about privacy settings preferences when online. Businesses also have to have clear policies and be able to respond accordingly.

PBN: How can small businesses with limited technical resources best protect consumer data?

CULLINA: Small businesses don’t need to have vast technical resources to best protect consumer data. It comes down to basics: First and foremost, they should follow the old standbys such as using encryption, employing strong passwords, running antivirus software programs, regularly training employees on security best practices, and properly backing up and testing backed up data. Those are some easy things they can be doing – and that people should be doing in general in their personal lives.

PBN: Looking forward, what are the biggest privacy trends that businesses should keep an eye on in the upcoming year?

CULLINA: When it comes to privacy and security trends, we’re going to hear a lot more about smartphones and smartphone-related exploits and issues in 2014. Think about it: More people are getting smartphones and accessing the Internet via their smartphones, but many people don’t properly protect them. Hackers are training their sights on smartphones with malware and viruses specifically geared toward these devices. Whether it’s corporate or personal smartphone use, that’s where we’re going to see a lot of action in 2014.

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