Data breaches are becoming more of a daily occurrence. Data is becoming more useful and people are looking for it even using unethical methods. Data is being used to influence decisions and behaviours and we receive news more regularly about some major data breach somewhere. Not long ago, we were shocked that Cambridge Analytica collected Facebook data from millions of people and apparently used it to influence 2016 American elections.
In the modern world, for convenience sake, we are bound to release some information about ourselves or our surroundings online. For instance, we all like how Google Maps helps us around. For Google to improve it, they do take some information from locals to aid in that. But we need to know how much information we release and what’s the consequence of having too much of it out online – knowingly or unknowingly.
How your data may fall into wrong hands
When you are online, you expose yourself to many internet threats. There are people online who will just stop at nothing to get your information. How they’ll use it is another matter, but the aggressiveness they employ to get your data in the first place is just amusing. Here are few ways your data can fall in the wrong hands:
- Hacking – A hacker is an intriguing human being. Hackers are the kind of people who will simply come after your data because you have an online presence. You don’t have to be an important figure in society. You don’t have to be maintaining a sensitive database. You simply need to have any form of online presence and boom! – you are a target. Hackers will look for any loop hole in your online accounts or services you have such as websites and servers and they will exploit it to get information or sabotage operations.
- Tapping – If you are performing any form of transaction online, especially one that involves you logging in to your account, it’s best and safe to do it over an encrypted channel. For websites, this is made possible using SSL certificates – which allow secure communication to the servers via https instead of http. This allows your (and your visitors’) communication to the servers to be encrypted in that even if data is being tapped, it cannot be read as it’s safe.
- Phishing – This is the practice of using false links that resemble the real links to certain websites, especially banking sites, to try and get individuals to submit their login credentials of the legitimate sites. For instance, there are many phishing links that target PayPal login page. Should you access one of this links and enter your PayPal login credentials, they are quickly fetched and used to access the real account. From there, your account is under the mercy of the phisher until action is taken to disrupt their connection. Phishers also send these links via email – with very interesting content and subject you’d want to access the link.
- Social Engineering. Often it’s just small bits of data that hackers are after. Your date of birth, along with your email or mailing address (perhaps listed on your website or Whois information on your domain) could provide a key that a criminal can use to reset your account passwords or gain access to important accounts. For example, back in 2012, hackers compromised Wired staff writer Mat Honan’s digital accounts and deleted all of his computer files just by having critical bits of information about him.
How to safeguard your data against these theats
The above listed techniques are just but a few that are employed to get hold of data. What steps can you take to protect your privacy online? Here, we’ll look at some ways you can reduce chances of being mined of data.
- Protect your email address – An email address is as important as a phone number in most circles in the modern age. It’s also used with online accounts – which provides the more reason to guard it safely. Don’t give your email to everyone who asks for it. Don’t place it where it can be accessed by all. If you have a domain, hide your whois information. If you find yourself dishing out your email so oftenly, consider creating a disposable email address to use with some of the online sites. If you’ll find specific emails crucial, you can update your email on that particular site or set forwarding to receive the important emails in your primary address. This will help you avoid spam mail and safeguard sensitive accounts attached to a particular email address
- Provide minimum information – Some sites will ask for personal information they do not need. Any one who asks for your email address, tax pin, bank account, social security number or ID number needs to be challenged to explain why they need that information. Don’t even share your physical address online. Instead, you can subscribe for P.O. Address and use it for some online forms.
- Avoid giving information to the unknown – This is particularly popular with Online games. Games that require you to connect with your facebook profile or GooglePlus profile should be avoided.
- Be smart with your passwords – Rule 1 with passwords is that you should use strong passwords. The basic definition of strong is a password that is long enough and includes letters (capital and small), numbers and symbols combined. Rule 2 is that you should not use the same password for more that one account. Should you do this and access is gained to one of your accounts, this can be used to access all your accounts. Imagine what harm can be done with that much access!
- Enable two factor authentication – Most websites have a provision for 2FA. Whenever you find this as an option, take it.
These are just a very small highlight of what can be done to enhance your privacy protection online. For a more comprehensive list of measures that can be taken, you can have a look at the 66 privacy tips from Consumer Reports. As they say, do one, some or all. It makes a diffrence!