Every day it seems, we hear about yet another tech company suffering a data breach and the stress of an identity theft kicks in to our brains. As we increasingly spend more time online from our smartphones and tablets to laptops and TV set top boxes for streaming, it means more apps and services tracking us. Protecting your digital privacy and online data has become more important. So we’ve put together some steps you can take to protect your data and your privacy.
The big blue elephant in the room. Facebook had over 500 Million perspn records stolen recently and perhaps typically annoying of Facebook, they’re not even going to tell you if it was your data that was stolen. When it comes to tracking personal data, packaging it up and selling it to anyone who wants it, Facebook is the worst. So what can you do? For starters, take Facebook off your smartphone, including Messenger. If you use it, just access Facebook via your browser, log in and log out every time you have a session. If you stay logged in, Facebook will track you absolutely everywhere.
Password Manager App
There are lots of them out there and now Dashlane and OnePassword even offer what is called Dark Web monitoring to help detect if your personal data has been stolen. No one can guarantee 100% protection but these two are the best at it. Another one that’s very good is LastPass. All can used on any device and they are subscription models that run between $70 to $90 a year, but it’s good insurance. They’re easy to use and well designed.
Restrict the Personal Information You Use
Put your birthday on Facebook? Don’t. Use a fake birthday. This is perhaps the most important to help protect your identity. Use your real birthday for banking and your smartphone carrier, government log-ins and trusted brands like Apple or Microsoft. Otherwise, for everything else, use a fake birthday. One of the main things hackers and scammers look for is your birthdate. With that, they can do a lot of damage. On Facebook and LinkedIn, do not disclose your birthday. Stick to real-world friends and family for getting the love.
Check Your Hacked Status
There’s a free website called Pwnd where you can check if your email has been hacked. It takes a few seconds and if it has, go to that app and change the password. It’s good to change your password about once a year. Be sure to use a mix of numbers and symbols as well. Some apps today force you to do that.
Stop Answering Quizzes
Chances are, you’ve already responded to one of those “name your top 10 favourite albums” or similar on Facebook? Those are often started by hackers who use social engineering tactics to get access to your accounts as things like top albums, places visited and book titles are often used as passwords so it helps them use brute force hacking to get into accounts.
Choosing a VPN
Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a software service you can download for both smartphones and desktop/laptop computers. Basically it “wraps” all your online activity in a cloak of data so your online browsing and activity remains secret. They’re getting better all the time and there’s quite a number to choose from. VPN’s are fairly easy to set up but can sometimes slow down your online experience. Here’s a good list from CNet.
There’s no 100% guarantee to protecting your privacy and avoiding being hacked, but these simple and easy tips can certainly help you. When it comes to the Tech Giants, probably the best two companies for privacy protection are Apple followed by Microsoft. Facebook is the worst and Google, especially for Android, is the second worst. While the “walled garden” of Apple may seem restrictive, you’re far less likely to get hacked or have a bad app that tracks you when you don’t want to be. Google’s Play Store is notorious for bad apps as they do very little to monitor the apps that get uploaded to their store. Apple isn’t infallible, but it is better.
It’s almost impossible not to be online for something today and there’s bad guys everywhere, but a few simple steps can go a long way to helping.
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Author: Giles Crouch is a digital anthropologist working at the intersection of humans and technology. He is frequently interviewed by news media. He is also the Group Publisher for HUM@Nmedia, the parent brand for Silver Magazine.