Kurt Long is chair and co-founder of BUNKR, an app empowering people and their families to organize, secure and share the most important information in their lives. He, his family and the BUNKR team believe we all deserve the dignity of conducting our personal and business affairs privately while respecting the needs of legal, due process and civilized society. Long co-founded BUNKR to serve as an ally for people and families facing a growing range of threats to their security and privacy. To learn more, visit https://www.bunkr.life or www.kurt-long.com.
Russ Alan Prince: We live in a time where data and privacy are constantly at risk. Why should people take this seriously and begin protecting themselves and their loved ones?
Kurt Long: My entire career has been built around bringing privacy, safety and security to everyone. I see it as a basic human right and one we don’t all have access to. Advances in AI have made protecting our most sensitive information and maintaining our privacy more important than ever before.
In the past, bad actors would collect this information, keep it on the dark web, and then attack individuals through imposter-based texts and emails riddled with typos or some characteristic making them easily identifiable and avoidable. However, with AI derivatives of technology like ChatGPT, bad actors can take stolen information and create very sophisticated attacks.
On a global scale, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the United States has growing adversarial relationships with competitors around the world, namely Russia when it comes to weapons and China on the economic front. Both China and Russia are also increasing their investments in organized cybercrime services that target the U.S. and strive to destabilize our infrastructure and our citizens. We’ve already begun to experience this with the escalation of wars like the one in Ukraine.
Prince: What are a few common types of scams, and who is the most vulnerable?
Long: Many scams and cyberattacks frequently occur via unsecured forms of digital communication like email, text, voice calls and social media messengers like WhatsApp, making them fertile grounds for imposters to strike. The FTC reported that consumers lost $2.6 billion from imposter scams in 2022, up from $2.4 billion in 2021. That said, no one is safe from cybercrimes and scams.
Historically, scammers target vulnerable segments of the population, typically children and the elderly. According to the FBI, elderly Americans lost $1.7 billion due to cybercrime in 2022, a year-over-year increase of 74%. With these two groups in particular, social engineering tactics are usually at play, whether it’s calling an elderly person to alert them that their Medicare card has expired and asking them to verify personal information or skimming personal data from online quizzes made for kids that ask for personal information such as birthdates, parents’ names or street addresses, which can be used to answer security questions and hack into accounts. This growing issue needs to be addressed as our collective digital footprints grow.
Prince: What actions can people take to protect their data and personal information?
Long: The status-quo approach to information security and privacy is to put the burden on the user, training them to be vigilant against cybercriminals. This approach is costly, distracting and subject to human error. In fact, human error is responsible for up to 95% of cybersecurity breaches. Instead, technology should be protecting us. At BUNKR, we are investing in the well-being of families by utilizing technology to empower people to live their daily lives worry-free because they know they are using the correct tool to keep their information safe.
Until personal privacy becomes a priority for technology providers, and given the increasing use of AI in cyber-fraud, there are some best practices that people may adopt on their own to protect themselves:
- Use a secure messaging system and only converse with people you know.
- Utilize an encrypted vault to manage your passwords and other personal information.
- Make sure to understand the privacy policies of any apps that you use. Make a habit of reading privacy policies whenever downloading new apps.
- Look through the privacy settings on your phone. In many cases, you can opt to turn off default settings that threaten your privacy through means like tracking.
Prince: How can financial advisors educate their clients on the importance of protecting their financial information?
Long: Clients are up against a confusing world of cyber criminals now mixed in with sophisticated AI. Financial advisors are in a unique position to provide counsel to their clients on how to navigate these new threats and best protect their sensitive information and assets. After all, people who have a lot have a lot to lose. BUNKR was built from the ground up as a digital safe haven to securely store and share passwords, documents and communications in an encrypted format. And at only $0.99 a year, this security is affordable to all.
Educating clients about potential cyber risks plays a big part in ensuring cyber safety. Common suggested cybersecurity practices include storing any important account numbers or passwords in a secure password protector, setting up credit monitoring and communicating any changes to financial plans, accounts, etc., through a verified platform or secure messaging platform.
Advisors can speak with their clients about how to protect themselves online, beginning with the standard forms of advisor-client communication. For example, if you usually communicate via email, clients should second-guess any random texts they may receive from your office, as they might be from a scammer. Similarly, if a client receives any unexpected, unsolicited messages about a new account opening or changes to any of their accounts asking them to verify information, they should contact you directly and ignore the communication until it’s verified as legitimate or not.
Russ Alan Prince is the executive director of Private Wealth magazine and chief content officer for High-Net-Worth Genius. He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs and select professionals.