Five Ways to Protect Your Personal Data
- Malware Detection Software
- Avoid Unsecured WiFi
- Use Fewer Apps
- Avoid Information Sharing
- Think Before Clicking
Almost every month, there is yet another story in the news about a massive breach of data privacy in which personal information about millions of people is obtained by hackers or by commercial or political interests in ways for which the people concerned have not given consent. As people’s financial and personal lives migrate online, data security, privacy, and protection become increasingly important. Whether one’s concerns are the practical ones of identity theft or financial losses, not wishing to be deluged with spam, or just a sense that one does not want one’s privacy violated, there are five key steps one can take to ensure online data security.
1. Malware Detection Software
According to a recent article on technology news site ZDNet, malware comes in many different forms. It includes various types of software that can damage computers, steal personal information, or turn computers into “bots” that can send out spam and malicious attacks. Some of the most common forms of malware are viruses, Trojans, worms, ransomware (which holds one’s data hostage until one pays off a hacker), spyware, and adware. All computers need firewalls, ant-virus software, and other malware detection programs to ensure data security.
2. Avoid Unsecured WiFi
Connections between computers and the internet can be hacked. For home computers, a wired connection is safer than WiFi because information is not broadcast through the air. The next best connection is secure WiFi which uses encryption and password protection to keep data safe. Public WiFi, such as that found in coffee shops and other public hotspots, is considerably less secure. Although one can use public WiFi to check out cat videos or local traffic reports, one should never log in to bank accounts or send credit card information over public networks.
3. Use Fewer Apps
Many apps may contain malware, collect personal information, or have various vulnerabilities allowing third parties to do so. A phone or computer with hundreds of apps is very likely to have some which behave badly. The first step in keeping data private is not downloading apps one does not really need. Next, before downloading an app, carefully research what data it collects.
4. Avoid Information Sharing
One should never share data unnecessarily. Even large companies such as Target, eBay, and Equifax have had major security breaches. One should never give out personal information unless it is necessary. Never take online quizzes or allow apps to access personal data or contacts. If online or brick and mortar stores ask for personal information, one can politely refuse to give it. Unless one shops someplace regularly, there is usually no benefit to being part of a frequent shopper program and a strong risk to your privacy as stores may sell and share lists of names and data for profit or may be targeted by hackers.
5. Think Before Clicking
Avoid clicking on embedded links in emails which may be part of phishing scams. Instead, visit sites such as banks, shops, and utility companies directly. Never blindly accept cookies or agree to data sharing. Always research before clicking.
Conclusion: Trust But Verify
The old Russian proverb “trust, but verify”, popularized in English by President Ronald Reagan, applies just as much to data privacy as to nuclear deterrence. Before opening attachments, accepting a friend request, downloading apps, or visiting unknown sites, verify their legitimacy.