Our mobile devices, IoT products in our homes, and our web browsing can fall prey to hackers, compromising our personal security and privacy. While surveillance rules for our protection do exist, they’re changing at the speed of light and consumers simply can’t keep up. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on vendors to protect us, either.
When you bring up the issue of data protection, many people will still say they’ve got nothing to hide. While that may be true for the person in question, it’s hardly consoling, considering how much one has to lose if a cybercriminal steals their data. Part of protecting your personal data is running a quick background check on suspicious people who reach out to you online.
Managing Data Properly to Protect Privacy
Before we can look at how the different types of data are relevant to your safety and privacy, we need to discuss them. PII or “personally identifiable information” is any type of data that can identify a particular individual. It includes your first and last name, email and physical address, date of birth, phone numbers, Social Security number, marital status, and data related to your education, employment, family, and medical status.
If you lose any of this data after falling victim to cybercrime or in a data breach, the attacker may have enough information to take out credit lines in your name, perpetrate identity theft, and/or hack online accounts by giving the correct answer to your security questions. Here’s what you can do to minimize these risks.
Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi
It’s very easy to connect to public Wi-Fi – for you, for hackers, and for everyone else. Once that happens, the hacker will see the account information and passwords you enter when on the network. At the very least, you should avoid entering private data if you absolutely must use public Wi-Fi.
Keep Your Security Software Up-to-Date
Use current software only and update it on a regular basis. One of the best ways to stay protected against online threats like malware and viruses is by having the latest security software.
Log Off or Lock Devices When not in Use
When you stop using a computer or device, you should make sure to lock it or log off. If you don’t, someone might get access to your data.
Change Your Browsing Habits
As ISPs (Internet Service Providers) monitor all their users’ online activity, user data can be hijacked in the process of browsing. Granted, you can’t do much about attacks at your ISP as a simple user. However, it’s worth remembering that cookies can track the pages you visit. Cookies are tiny pieces of text that your browser downloads and saves. Your activity can be tracked by browser plugins across multiple websites.
Cookies are mostly harmless. They are used to “personalize” online use, which largely extends to developing customized and targeted advertising. There are cases when tracking by cookies becomes intrusive. Specific identifiers are added to a cookie, after which they are used on different marketing platforms and services.
Use Passcodes and PINs on Devices
Use passcodes or PINs to stop people from accessing information on your computer, smartphone, or tablet. Moreover, you should adjust privacy settings on apps and social media sites to your comfort level.
Turn the net off When not in Use
When you don’t need to use the Internet, you should turn it off. While an indisputable convenience, being constantly connected comes with certain risk. Viruses and hackers can infiltrate your device more easily.
A lot of people include personal information on social media, like places and dates of birth. You don’t know who’s looking at your social media accounts. Cybercriminals get a better picture of you and stealing your identity becomes that much easier.
Don’t Click if in Doubt
If an online ad, post, or Tweet looks suspicious, you should not click on it. Your data can also be compromised in these ways, in addition to emails. Moreover, you should avoid clicking on anything that comes with an “Act Now!” message.
Cybercriminals are in their heyday, thanks to the speed, anonymity, and convenience of the Internet. Researchers have found that a whopping 20% of Americans have had an account compromised or personal data stolen. We hope our tips will help you stay safe.