Protecting Your Online Data

When you’re online, whether on your phone or your computer, do you assume that your information is completely private and safe? Or are you paranoid about hacking, viruses, and data breaches, and take extra security measures?

Most probably feel like they are somewhere in the middle.

The easiest thing you can do to protect your information is to maintain you device. Keep your operating system up to date—those updates often include security patches to make your system safer and strengthen system vulnerabilities. The same goes for any antivirus and antimalware you may have on your device.

Once you’re confident that your system is secure, help it stay secure. Access the internet from behind a firewall. Don’t connect to public or unsecure internet access points. Use encryption software when you send information over the internet. Most browsers will have a lock icon to let you know that the site you are on is encrypted. Don’t fall for phishing scams—clicking on links in fraudulent emails and the like.

OK, so say your computer is virus- and malware- free. Your internet connection is secure. There is one other thing obvious piece to the security puzzle: your passwords. They often need to be long and you’re required to follow all kinds of rules involving numbers, letters, and special characters. Many sites require you to change them often or won’t allow words from the dictionary. All these things can make passwords challenging to create and even harder to remember. Your browser usually wants to make it easy for you—it offers to remember your login information, or it keeps you logged in to sites you visit frequently. But if you don’t have to log in, neither would someone else using your computer—with or without your permission. It’s also tempting to have the same password across multiple sites. But a strong password is your best defense. Using the same one for all your accounts would be like having a master key that opened everything in your life—all the doors in your house, your car, the lock to your bike, your gym locker, everything. Imagine how much things would suck if someone stole that key? Now imagine that key is the only thing standing between your social media page, your online shopping accounts, your banking information, your personal and work email accounts, and your computer log in. If your computer were ever to be hacked, everything is compromised with hardly any work necessary.

You can have an up to date computer running the best antivirus software ever created, have the most secure passwords on the most encrypted network, and still have your information stolen. People make tactical errors online all the time. We don’t read those long and boring privacy policies but they are worth the read. You’ll find out what the company does with your information and whether they share it with anyone else. If you don’t know what the policy is or you don’t agree with it, take your business elsewhere. Another thing people mistakenly do is put too much information online. They tag themselves in pictures and leave the geolocation on. Congratulations, now the creepy guy in the next town over knows where you live and where your kids go to school. People are so excited on vacation that they are uploading pictures or use status updates that tell everyone, “Hey, I’m not at home!” and then set themselves up for a home invasion. You never know who is going to see the information you put out there. If you don’t want the whole world knowing it, don’t put it on your computer. If it’s not there, it can’t get out.

I hope that these tips have given you a better idea of how you can keep your information safe online. Let me know if you have any questions!