4 simple tips to protect your online privacy
If you share anything online, your first thought should always be privacy. It’s hard to ignore the fact that data breaches and identity theft have become all too common in the online world, and that nothing uploaded to the internet goes away. Today, social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and even LinkedIn have become digital billboards, splashed with every detail of our lives.
All of this can seem a little overwhelming, and it’s easy to think that it isn’t worth trying to fix it. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to protect your data. Here are four simple tips to ensure that your user accounts stay safe, your browsing habits stay private, and your most sensitive information isn’t captured and used against you.
Why protecting your online privacy is important
It’s important to know how your information may become compromised, what a cybercriminal could do with your information, and how you can keep yourself safe. These days, just about everyone has private information online. Almost every site you use will collect some information from you, whether that’s innocuous information such as your gender and country; or more specific information, such as your name, birthday and email address.
Other private information you might share online include what you share on social media, messages in your email and chatting apps, cloud-based photo and document storage, online banking and finance details, and much more. In isolation, not all of this information is that valuable, or even a way to identify you. What’s dangerous is when it is collated together to form a picture of you and your habits. This is gold dust for advertisers, but it can also be used in a malicious way to identify you, where you live, and things like your sexuality and behaviour.
There are a number of ways a cyber criminal could gain access to your private information. This includes by viewing your public posts, logging into your accounts by guessing or finding your password, intercepting your internet connection, or by hacking into servers that the data is stored on. Every website, app and service you provide information to is likely to store that information somewhere, and while GDPR has placed time limits on this, it isn’t always followed. Consequently, this data could be insecurely stored and stolen if those sites are ever compromised.
How to protect your online privacy
There are many things that a cyber criminal could do were they to gain access to your private information, such as stealing your identity, transferring money from your accounts, shopping online with your cards, defrauding your family members, friends or colleagues, or even selling your data on the dark web.
Fortunately, taking just a few simple precautions will help you stay safe online:
Limit what you share online publicly
Both the simplest answer and the hardest to implement is to be more careful with what you share online. Each time you go to post something, think what the repercussions would be if it was shared around, and seen by someone other than the intended recipients.
While it’s not always the case, you should assume that anything you post online will be there forever – and could come back to haunt you years down the line. This includes services such as Snapchat, which market themselves on the temporary nature of their messages and photos, as these can still be screen captured and shared.
Protect your accounts with strong passwords
Good password security can go a long way to protecting your personal information. This means no passwords containing the word ‘password’, or anything that is easily guessable based on information that people might have access to, such as your birthday, pet names, business name, etc.
If you find it hard to memorise several complex passwords with symbols and numbers, try using a passphrase: a long string of words joined together (e.g. NobodyCouldEverGuessSomethingThisLong). If that doesn’t work, try a password manager such as LastPass, but be aware: you will need to remember at least one complex password to secure your password manager account.
Turn on two-factor-authentication on all of your important accounts
Two factor authentication is a simple but powerful feature that is now available on many websites, apps and other platforms. This feature prompts you to provide additional verification on top of your password before you can login, such as using an authenticator app, or putting in a code that gets sent to your phone or email account.
Two factor authentication can be slightly annoying, as it makes the process of logging in slightly more complicated. However, the benefits it provides for privacy are undeniable. With two factor authentication, a hacker would need to guess or steal your password and have access to your email account or phone, making your accounts extremely secure.
Avoid accessing sensitive accounts on public wifi (or use a VPN to secure your connection)
Most of us use public wifi hotspots when we can to save data, or because we can’t get a connection any other way. While useful, these public wifi connections can be extremely insecure, and prone to personal data being stolen. When using them, it’s important to take precautions, either by avoiding the use of sensitive accounts, or using a virtual private network (VPN).
A VPN encrypts all of your data and sends it to a remote server, which checks that you have the right authentication, then sends it to its destination. This way, not only is all the data you send and receive from websites and apps encrypted – stopping anyone from deciphering it – your identity is also hidden, as all your browsing data appears to come from the VPN server.
Finally, remember that whatever you post on the internet is almost impossible to get back! For the best protection, you may want to consider speaking to a professional which can keep you and your company if you fall victim to a cyber criminal.
At Sota, our experts are ready to help with SotaProtect providing the cyber security framework you need to achieve cyber resilience. For more information, feel free to contact a member of our team today.