Safeguarding Online Privacy and Security: Helpful Tips for Everyone

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It could happen to you or to a loved one.

Some people think that only governments and large corporations can fall prey to hacking, influenced by what they see in the movies.

Just think about it: more and more homes are getting connected to the Internet. And it’s not just PCs and laptops. On average, a home has 17 devices connected online, from computers to phones to other smart devices like TVs.

For the cybercriminal, this simply means more opportunities to attack you and your loved ones.

Why your online privacy and security matters

Offline, security and privacy practices come to you automatically. It can be as simple as drawing up the curtains or checking if your doors are locked before turning in for the night.

But for many people, online privacy and security is something alien and unfamiliar. In order to better understand the value of online privacy and security, it is a good idea to know exactly what you are trying to protect.

Apart from keeping your online activities away from prying eyes and those with malicious intent, you need to be aware that every interaction, every activity that you do online, you are leaving bread crumbs that people and organizations can take advantage of.

For starters, you can inadvertently leave personally identifiable information or PII. These include your name, address, birth date, contact information, and social security number. It also doesn’t take much to track your online activities, including the searches you have made as well as the websites you have visited.

Simply put, if you do not wish to post any of this information on your social media accounts, nobody should have access to any of these.

Unfortunately, there are companies that are profiting from the information collected from consumers. The information collected can then be sold to companies without your express permission or knowledge. And it is perfectly legal as long as there is no PII included. Among the companies that buy consumer online information are those in direct marketing, targeted advertising, and credit risk assessment.

The experts who participated in CyberWeek 2019 all agree that your security and privacy matters because you own your data and you should have a say on how it should be used.

Guarding your online privacy

But how, exactly, do you safeguard your privacy when you log on to the Internet? Are there special skills that you need to learn and master? Should you enroll in a cybersecurity training course?

Fortunately, you do not need to develop skills similar to that of a hacker. Listed below are a few best practices when going online.

1. Create strong passwords

Think of passwords as virtual keys that can open the door to your online assets. This is why hackers do their best to acquire the passwords of their targets by any means possible.

Every time you make an online account, be sure to use a strong password. Ideally, your new password should be at least eight characters long, combining upper and lower cases, symbols, and numbers.

As much as possible, avoid using personal information as a part of your password. Also, try to create different passwords for all of your accounts instead of using one for all your accounts.

If there is an option for two-factor authentication, take advantage of it.

Instead of storing your passwords on your phone, consider using password managers.

2. Check the privacy settings

For both apps and social media platforms, check the privacy settings.

Ideally, you should choose the option which shares the least amount of information. If possible, avoid giving authorization for the access of your name, location, and camera.

3. Be mindful of your online activities

Before clicking the post or send button, be aware of the possible ramifications of your actions. Remember, the Internet remembers.

Long after you post something, or even if you delete your original post, it is still possible to retrieve a copy of that which you posted online. Err on the side of caution.

4. Get protection for your devices

Make sure that all your devices have protection from different threats like viruses and malware.

Contrary to what some people may believe, it isn’t just your laptop that needs security software. Because most people go online using their phones, it follows that your smart device should also have adequate protection, as well.

5. Prepare for the unexpected

Due to their small size, it is fairly easy to leave behind phones. This is why it is crucial to download tracking apps to help you find your device should it get lost or stolen.

As for your data, it is a good practice to regularly back these up on the cloud. Apart from ensuring that your data is readily available every time you are connected to the Internet, backing up your data minimizes the potential problem of your information being held hostage by cybercriminals.

6. Regularly update software

Apart from providing enhancements for features, software updates can also boost your online security and privacy.

Once an update is released, make sure that you download the latest version, whether that update is for your device’s operating software or for a specific app.

Err on the side of caution

As more and more people get connected to the Internet, security and privacy vulnerabilities risks rise exponentially. If there is one key mistake that you should avoid, that would be to think that you aren’t vulnerable.

AUTHOR BIO

Dhillon Andrew Kannabhiran is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hack in The Box, organiser of the HITBSecConf series of network security conferences which has been held annually for over a decade in various countries including Malaysia, The Netherlands and the UAE.