Visual Hacking: What It Is and How to Prevent It

Visual hacking is a security threat that is often overlooked. This is the act of stealing information by simple observation and it’s success rates are as high as 90%. Here’s what you need to know.

Perhaps you lock up your files, keep your digital data under lock and key, and authenticate users around your office for secure network access. While that is all well and good, have you ever considered that what’s happening on those computer monitors could be exposing you, your customers, or your employee data to wandering eyes? Welcome to visual hacking, and it’s more of a problem than you realize.

Visual Hacking: The Basics

Visual hacking is the act of physically spying on someone’s desk or computer screens. Visual hacking is a low-tech threat as compared to malware, ransomware, or other high-tech threats, however, the repercussions can be just as detrimental.

According to a survey completed by the Ponemon Institute, 91% of visual hacking attempts are successful, the attacks can happen quickly, and it can be nearly impossible to detect when someone steals a glimpse at what’s happening on the screen. In nearly half of all hacking attempts, it can take less than 15 minutes to complete an initial hack.

Visual Hacking Can Happen Anywhere

As an article in American Banker reported, even the most sophisticated bank security system could be easily subverted simply by taking photographs of documents left on desks or a teller’s screen.

If you are a field worker, someone can easily read what’s on your phone from over your shoulder if you are accessing company data.

If you work in a medical office and computers are in plain view, anyone can see PHI and you can be in trouble for HIPAA violations.

Unauthorized access to confidential information is not limited to consumer data or financial data – it includes your company’s intellectual property and information assets. Even conducting routine email on devices that can be seen by others can put confidential information at risk.

How to Safeguard Your Information from Visual Hacking

Here are some basic steps you can take to protect yourself from visual hacking:

Perform an audit: Doing a walkthrough of your workspace can help you uncover issues, such as identifying monitors that are exposed to high-traffic areas. Practice situational awareness when working in public spaces, such as a coffee shop, hotel lobby or airport. Seek out areas that provide the most privacy from prying eyes.

Use physical safeguards: Use attachable screen privacy filters to shield confidential information displayed on a screen from side-angled views. Gold screen privacy filters are quite in trend.

Develop guidance for employees: Your employees can be your most-powerful defense against visual hackers. Right policies such as clean-desk reduce the risk of information being exposed.

Protecting confidential information is a basic building block of privacy. Visual hacking can be prevented, but only if employees increase their privacy awareness of their surroundings and follow basic tips to protect visual privacy.


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