Even though news about another celebrity’s hacked cloud storage – from Jennifer Lawrence to Hilary Clinton – appear regularly, many people think their personal information is not attractive to cyber criminals. However, practice shows that fame does not affect the hackers’ desire to get hold of other people’s identifiable information and benefit from it. Numerous data breach cases, even in giant corporations, only confirm this.
Your email account, social media and messengers, gaming accounts, smartphone IDs, and online banking – all of these can be exposed to cyber attacks. It may lead even to complete identity theft. In order to keep your personal information from getting into the wrong hands, it is crucial to stick to several security measures.
When surfing the web, you’re basically sending data packets that contain, among other components, your IP address over the internet to ask for information back. Without a VPN, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can see where these packets travel and what data they request.
With a bit of help from cyber security specialists, we’ve determined five necessary steps for protecting your personal information online:
Set a Two-Factor Authentication
It sounds complex, but in practice, everything is simple: this is two-step protection, the first line of which is the usual combination of your username and password stored on the server, and the second – information only a specific user (you) has access to. There are several methods of two-factor authentication, including SMS-passwords, authenticator apps, and hardware tokens.
Here is a simple example: you enter your username and password to log in to your online banking, and then a unique SMS code is sent to your phone. This is two-factor authentication.
It is supported by Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Telegram, and many other services. This is a necessary measure to protect your personal information, so be sure to enable two-step protection in all of your online accounts. If some service you use does not support it, this is a serious reason to stop using it.
Get a Password Manager
Each and every article will tell you to create a strong password to protect your privacy. But it is unlikely that any of us will come up with a password more complicated than a password generated by a special service. Even if you do, where will you store such a long and random set of characters – in your head or on a piece of paper?
According to Bulletproof, there are special password managers that can reduce the pain of constantly trying to recollect which password belongs to which account (we optimistically assume you don’t use one password for all of your online accounts).
Popular services, such as 1Password, LastPass, Dashlane, generate complex passwords themselves, keep them in secure storage, and eliminate the need to remember the password to a specific site.
Always Use a Secure Connection
About ten years ago, it was recommended to use email services necessarily with a secure connection. By now, this advice has only become more relevant. Fortunately, most social networks have learned to work with the HTTPS protocol, and online banks and payment services have also switched to it.
When doing online shopping and other potentially dangerous actions, pay attention to the lock-shaped icon to the left of the address bar. Make sure that you are working with the encrypted site.
If a website cannot provide a secure connection, you can consider using third-party services or browser extensions that redirect users to the website’s HTTPS version.
Keep Track of App Access To Your Personal Data
Both iOS and Android users can control mobile apps’ access to various data on their devices. Make sure to perform an audit at least once in a couple of months. Check what information the installed applications and mobile games have access to, and if any access requests seem suspicious, do not hesitate to disable them. It will allow you to exclude the possibility of malicious software taking advantage of your personal data.
Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
Working from a coffee shop or a co-working space is always a fun alternative, especially for freelancers and digital nomads. Still, you should be aware of ways to protect your data when connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Avoiding open Wi-Fi hotspots is helpful, but even those requiring a password to connect do not guarantee security.
When working in public places with Wi-Fi, always use a VPN service. It will redirect the traffic to its own, third-party server and then provide you with an already “cleaned” one, which cyber criminals can not track. Many third parties are offering VPN connections – from standalone services to browser extensions. For example, Opera has a built-in VPN into its browsers, allowing you to work or surf the net with enhanced privacy.
The Bottom Line
We have basically moved our lives to the Internet during the last few years, and the global pandemic has only accelerated this process. Storing and sharing lots of your personal information – from credit card and social security numbers to private photos and work-related documents – in informal text messages can play a bad joke on you one day. For that reason, you should know how to protect yourself.
Starting from implementing those primary steps on your mobile devices is crucial to ensure your safety online.