Spending time online has become an integral part of our everyday lives and existence. However, your personal information is much more vulnerable online than it would be if it were stored physically, so it’s vital to know how to stay safe. This article will explain 5 very important ways to keep your personal data safe online. Let’s get into it!
Use Strong Passwords
Your online security starts with the passwords you set for all of your accounts. Without using strong passwords, any other measures you take to protect your information online would be rather useless.
If you’re using weak passwords, especially for crucial accounts such as your email or social media, even amateur hackers won’t have trouble accessing your personal information held in those accounts. It’s your job to make their job as difficult as possible, and that begins with equipping your account with a strong password.
Encrypt All Data That Contains Personal Information
Data encryption translates information from a readable format into an encoded one. (You need to have the encryption key or password to decrypt the data). You should encrypt all data that contains your personal information. If you’re going to share the data online, only do so through encrypted email or cloud.
If you’re going to store the data for a long period without touching it, it would also be better to store it in an encrypted cloud. Unencrypted data is at risk of being targeted by hackers in case the device gets compromised.
Don’t Share Personal Information Online
Since data is the new oil, many sites have begun offering free services in exchange for your personal information. However, with hundreds of these sites out there, your information will become vulnerable if any of those sites get hacked or their data gets leaked.
What you could do without sacrificing the free benefits is provide “alternative facts,” which are false details you provide instead of your personal information. Sites usually have no way to verify that the information you give them is correct, so you should be able to use whatever it is that they’re offering.
That said, in some instances, like if you’re doing online banking or setting up an account with your university, you should use your real personal information. However, if it’s a gaming or news site, there is no need to give them sensitive information like your:
- Phone number, etc.
Be Mindful of Links and Attachments
Whether it’s the YouTube comment section or your email inbox, the internet is flooded with malicious links and attachments. These are massively distributed by hackers to spread malware or to get people to unknowingly give them their login credentials.
Before clicking or downloading anything, make sure it’s coming from a reliable source. If you receive an email from an unknown sender, investigate the sender’s credibility before you interact with the contents of that email.
Conversely, if you see links randomly posted on a comment section or forum, do not click on them unless you can tell for sure that they aren’t dangerous.
Enable All Security Features
From your operating system to the applications you use to your favorite search engine, they all have unique security features that are there for a reason. Even if it comes at the cost of a slight performance decrease, enable most, if not all, available security features.
Recently, operating systems such as Microsoft have been doing a great job implementing built-in security software. You could also download third-party antivirus software to bolster your defenses further. Having this type of software installed and enabled is crucial in preventing malware, among many other threats.
Be Careful With Public WiFi
It always feels great to find free public WiFi. However, you need to be very careful with the information you’re sharing while using public WiFi.
Here are some of the major security risks associated with public WiFi:
- Unencrypted network – An encrypted network means that the shared information is scrambled with a secret code. However, many public WiFi networks lack encryption.
- Malicious hotspots – Networks set up by cybercriminals, posing as legitimate, but created to collect personal information from people connected to it.
To stay safe:
- Refrain from using public WiFi as much as possible
- Use a VPN (this is a security tool you can download to your device to encrypt all of your data)
- Whenever you connect to any public WiFi network, don’t transmit any personal information (e.g., avoid logging in to your online bank account).
Protecting your personal information online is challenging. Threats are lurking on every corner and waiting for you to make a mistake. However, implementing the methods above will ensure that your personal information stays well protected.
It’s best to use multiple methods of protection, as a single line of defense is rarely enough in today’s cybercrime-ridden world.