There’s no doubt that data security has become an increasingly important issue in recent years, with everything from credit card information to social security numbers being stolen by hackers online.
In today’s digital age, almost everything we do requires the use of computers and the Internet. This includes banking, shopping, and even sending an email to our friends. Unfortunately, while convenient and efficient, many vulnerabilities in our day-to-day activities can put your personal information at risk of being hacked or stolen.
Hence, one of the biggest fears of anyone using the internet is losing control of their data, so it’s essential to have steps in place to prevent that from happening. If you want to protect your identity and financial accounts, you must take the steps needed to keep your data secure and confidential, whether you’re at home or on the go.
Here are eight ways to protect your data online:
1) Never Click a Link in an Email
If you didn’t ask for it, don’t open it. It’s as simple as that. Likewise, if a friend or family member sends you an attachment, treat it with caution. Even if you know them well and have heard nothing but good things about their email security practices, malware could be attached to a seemingly innocent-looking PDF file.
Anything that even remotely suggests something untoward may warrant erasing without looking back—think invoices from your boss or clients asking for financial information, etc. If in doubt, just don’t click that link. When in doubt, a phone call or quick check on Nuwber will go a long way to confirm the email sender’s identity.
2) Never Share Personal Information on Social Media
With so many people using social media, it’s easy to forget that you’re broadcasting your location, interests, and activities to strangers. And while there are certainly benefits of staying connected with friends, it can also be risky.
Social media privacy settings have become increasingly complex, and many users have inadvertently made their profiles public. Unfortunately, this means anyone could access your name, location, and other personal information without needing to befriend you first. Some social networks even make user information visible without logging in at all.
So keep things private by adjusting your privacy settings on popular social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. And if you want to share a little bit about yourself online, remember to think carefully about what that reveals about you before hitting ‘send’.
3) Protect Your Data While Using Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi can be convenient and helpful when you’re away from home or work. But, it can also severely threaten your online privacy and data security.
One easy way to protect yourself is by installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your phone. A VPN creates an encrypted connection between your device and a server, which encrypts all your data as it travels over public Wi-Fi. You’ll find that many VPN services are free or quite affordable if you use VPN deals, so you won’t have to spend much money protecting yourself while you travel.
4) Use Strong Passwords
It’s easy to be sloppy with passwords. We write them down on sticky notes, reuse them across services, and often tell other people our passwords to make life easier. Unfortunately, doing so puts your data at risk. For example, your Google password could give someone access to your bank account.
Passwords are vital because you can’t access much of your information without them. So make sure you use a strong password. That means one that includes letters, numbers, and symbols and doesn’t use any easily guessable passwords like your birthdate or pet’s name.
A good password should be at least 8 characters long, but we recommend 12-20 for added security. Using a password manager such as LastPass to store them all for you is an easy way to remember different passwords across all your accounts and devices. Because you wouldn’t try to memorize dozens of credit card numbers; so why keep track of so many logins?
Also, remember to use two-factor authentication whenever possible to add an extra layer of security.
5) Install Security Software
Security software isn’t just for techno-paranoids. It’s for anyone who uses a computer or smartphone for work or entertainment, whether you do it at home, at work, on a laptop, tablet, or mobile device.
There are two types of security software you should look into, namely:
- anti-virus programs, and
- anti-malware programs.
Anti-virus programs scan your machine to see if it’s infected with a virus or other malicious code that can cause problems. These are typically lightweight, run in real-time, and aren’t resource hogs.
Sometimes, your device will have built-in anti-virus protection already. If not, you can get any of the top ones like Avast! Free Antivirus, Norton, Kaspersky, etc.
Anti-malware is a bit more complicated. Malware is any program designed to disrupt or steal information from your computer.
This could be anything from an email attachment intended to steal data from your hard drive (when you open it) to spyware that tracks everything you type and sends it back to hackers so they can use your login information elsewhere online.
A good anti-malware software protects against malware. It removes existing malware on your system without slowing down performance too much.
6) Keep Your Software Updated
Hackers don’t get access to your computer through a lightning strike or by being cute. Instead, they have to find a way in, which usually happens through vulnerabilities in the software you use.
Software developers regularly release updates for their programs because they discover bugs or other issues that need fixing. So make sure you update your computer software regularly. Regarding security, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t Fall for Scams
Fraudsters will try to access your money or personal data in any way, so it’s essential to be vigilant online.
For example, don’t share too much information with unknown websites, and don’t give out your credit card number for fear of identity theft. Also, delete messages requesting personal information or asking you to click on links. These could have malicious software hidden inside them. It may sound tedious, but taking a few extra precautions now can protect you from a lot of trouble down the road.
8 ) Use Encryption
Encryption is a must because if someone can hack into your accounts and get hold of your information, they can start spending on your credit cards—and you won’t know until it’s too late.
It may not seem like much, but having a credit card fraud charge on your account is enough to give a lender pause when you want to buy a house or car. And if they don’t trust you in those situations? There goes an otherwise good loan application.
Ensure your information is encrypted and password-protected, so you have time to clean up any mistakes or suspicious activity before someone else does it for you.
Summary and Conclusion
It’s important to realize that your data isn’t always protected. Encryption might be a good start, but there are many other ways you can protect yourself online. This post has outlined some of them for you in an easy-to-understand format.
We hope that even if you’re familiar with most of these strategies, seeing them all in one place will help cement some in your mind and remind you that it’s up to you to ensure your own security online.