Tracy Hillstrom VP, Content Strategy & Experience at WatchGuard, provides some advice for Data Privacy Day
Protecting your personal data while participating in an increasingly online community can be challenging. When the wrong people get hold of personal information, it can lead to identity theft and other costly crimes, which can have an impact on individuals for years. However, consistently applying a few commonsense privacy practices will help you to avoid unnecessary time, expense, and trouble. With Data Privacy Day on 28 January, it’s a good time to take a fresh look at your personal information security.
Personal Data Protection best pracrice:
- Treat unexpected messages as suspicious.
Some emails, texts, and phone calls that seem to come from legitimate people and companies such as Amazon or PayPal, and even co-workers just do not seem right. Avoid engaging with those messages and don’t release any personal information to those sources until verified through your own checks.
- Resist the temptation to click links or download files
While it’s okay to click on links from trusted friends, family members, coworkers and companies, links and files from untrusted or suspicious sources need to be handled differently. Investigate links by hovering to discover the actual web address and don’t click a link or download a file with a suspicious origin.
- Get a password manager
There’s no way to remember complex passwords for every account you use, simple passwords are easily hackable. Not only does a password manager keep criminals away from the personal information in your accounts, but it makes it easier to access accounts without hassle.
- Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible
Data breaches could have leaked your personal information and possibly even passwords. To ensure that criminals can’t access your accounts even when they have the correct log-in information, you need to set up two-factor or multi-factor authentication that provides a time-based verification response using phone or email in addition to account credentials.
- Read privacy policies before creating an account
Due in part to data privacy regulations enacted around the world, companies are usually required to disclose how they will handle your personal data. By reading their published privacy policies, you can learn if they sell data to third parties and how they use information collected using website cookies. Before setting up and saving account information with a business, confirm that they will not disclose or use your personal information in unsafe ways.
- Keep the antivirus and security software on my devices up-to-date
Malware installed on your computer without your knowledge can allow cybercriminals to possibly steal data and even capture keystrokes as you enter data into other systems. It takes strong endpoint security to reduce these risks, and this software needs to be updated in order to block the latest threats. Make sure you pay attention to alerts suggesting that your security is or about to become inactive, expired and/or out of date and take prompt action to remedy the situation.
- Assume that public Wi-Fi connections are exposed
While we all need to connect to public Wi-Fi hot spots from time to time, there is no guarantee that security measures have been put in place by the host. So, don’t input personal information without first running a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or other tool for encrypted communications.
- Interact safely on social media
Social media like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Twitter offer unique opportunities to connect with friends and family as well as meet and engage with like-minded individuals. However, it’s not always possible to be sure who you are communicating with and what their intentions are. Therefore, take extra care to not divulge personal information to unknown audiences by:
- Activating the privacy settings offered to hide profile information and posts from all except but people that you have approved for your community
- Only approve people you know to join your community
- Don’t enter personal information in quizzes, applications for studies, or forms opened from advertisements
By owning your personal data and committing to the actions that will protect it you are in a good position to stay safe online. But as our digital environments are continually evolving, so are our security practices. To remain informed, many governments around the world provide security and privacy information from their websites, and other security professionals share security information on sites such as Secplicity.org.