Protecting Personal Privacy: Steps You Can Take to Keep Your Information Safe
The internet has revolutionized the way we live, work and communicate. For most of us, it is an essential part of our daily lives, providing access to a wealth of resources and convenience that we could not have imagined even a decade ago. With this convenience, however, comes a risk to our personal privacy, and many of us are unaware of the ways in which our personal information is being tracked, collected and used.
Your personal data is a valuable commodity, and companies, advertisers, and even government agencies may try to collect and use it for their own purposes. This can lead to various consequences such as identity theft, spam emails, and cyber-attacks. However, taking some simple steps to protect your privacy can go a long way in ensuring your online activities remain safe and secure.
In this article, we will be discussing various ways in which you can protect your privacy and the steps that need to be taken to ensure your information remains confidential. We'll also be providing real-life examples of how companies or criminals have insidiously collected and used personal information without consent, and what actions could have been taken to prevent such violations of privacy.
1. Keep Your Social Media Accounts Secure
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are major privacy concerns for most people. These platforms allow users to share personal information with ease, making it an attractive target for cybercriminals. Therefore, it is paramount to keep your social media accounts secure. Start by reviewing your privacy settings and make sure that you are only sharing your personal information with the people you trust. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the security options offered by the platform, such as two-factor authentication and location tracking, and adjust them accordingly to ensure maximum protection.
For example, a security researcher discovered an app that promised to generate quizzes but surreptitiously collected Facebook user data, including basic profile information, location, and shopping preferences. With that data, the company was able to create a personality profile for each user, which it claimed to use to tailor content and to target specific groups of users. To prevent such violations, it is crucial to review your privacy settings on social media regularly, and only share information with trusted sources.
2. Use a Secure Password and Two-Factor Authentication
Using a password is an essential step in ensuring that your data remains private. Ensure that your chosen password is unique and is a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols to make it harder to crack. Additionally, consider using two-factor authentication for additional security. Two-factor authentication requires a secondary verification method, such as a text message or biometric authentication, to access your account, making it more difficult for someone to gain access to your data.
For example, in 2012, hackers were able to steal the login credentials of 167 million LinkedIn users, exposing personal information including email addresses, phone numbers, and employment history. Most users use simple passwords, such as '123456' or 'password,' making it easy for hackers to access personal information. Therefore, make sure to choose a strong password and enable two-factor authentication where possible.
3. Be Wary of Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are fraudulent emails, texts or phone calls that trick individuals into sharing sensitive information such as login credentials or payment details. Criminals use sophisticated techniques to make these scams look legitimate, thus making it imperative to be vigilant and aware of such scams. Never share personal information with anyone who requests it through unsolicited emails or messages, even if they appear to be from a trustworthy source.
For instance, in 2017, hackers used fake Google Docs invitations to gain access to personal data from around one million Gmail accounts. These phishing emails were so convincing that many individuals unwittingly granted hackers access to their Google accounts, which was subsequently used to gain access to their email accounts and stored data. To avoid such scams, only share information through secure channels such as the website of the concerned service provider.
4. Steer Clear of Public Wi-Fi Networks
While public Wi-Fi networks are convenient, they are also inherently insecure due to the lack of encryption. Hackers can potentially intercept any data transmissions made over these networks, including login credentials and sensitive information. Hence it is better to avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for transacting sensitive data such as bank account details or other financial records.
For example, in 2014, a cybersecurity expert was able to hack into a Starbucks mobile payment app through a public Wi-Fi network. This enabled him to access customers’ personal information, including their email addresses, passwords and credit card details, as the app monitored data sent from the user’s device without securing the messages. To avoid such security issues, always use a trusted network, such as a home or work network.
5. Use Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Software
Anti-virus and anti-malware software is essential to keep your computer and mobile devices safe from malicious software. There are several free and paid options available in the market, which offer real-time protection against viruses, malware, and spyware.
For instance, in 2017, hackers were able to breach the security of the Equifax database and stole the personal information of over 147 million individuals. It was later revealed that the breach was due to a vulnerability in the company’s web application framework. To protect yourself from such data breaches, it is crucial to invest in anti-virus and anti-malware software.
In conclusion, protecting your personal privacy is paramount in today’s world. Following the steps outlined above and staying alert and informed of possible online scams or data breaches, will go a long way in keeping your information safe and secure. Remember, your personal data is a valuable asset, and it’s up to you to ensure that it isn’t used or abused by unauthorized parties.