Happy Data Privacy Day! Here are 12 Simple Tips to Keep Your Data Safe

Everything we do online creates data. From our browser histories to our social security numbers, bank accounts, and online health data, we are constantly putting information about ourselves out there. Not to mention, social media tailoring advertisements to our preferences without us even looking at our devices. They can hear us

Data Privacy Week, celebrated between January 24st through 28th, is an international effort to recognize the importance of data privacy and make the internet a safer place for everyone. It was first started in January 2008 to memorialize the European signing of Convention 108 - the very first legally-binding international treaty dealing with data protection.

If you're anything like me, the lack of control is nerve-racking. Our social security numbers, credit card information, and even our phone numbers could be at risk, if we give it to the wrong online platform. The last thing any of us want is an unplanned need to cancel our credit cards, change all our passwords, or worse, file a police report because someone stole our identity.

Luckily, here are 12 super simple tips we can use to strengthen our sense of security online:

Tip #1: Be Picky - Don’t give your information to just anybody

Every app, website, and online platform has an interest in our information. Our demographic info, credit card numbers, email addresses, and phone numbers all help online platforms make money. The problem is that sometimes they ask for unnecessary information, like our contacts list, photo albums, and more.

If you’re selling me a one-time downloadable e-book on how to keep my data safe, why do you need my geographic location?

Bottom-line, make sure you trust the platform that is asking for your information. Check out customer reviews, and make sure they take data privacy seriously.

Tip #2: Change Your Security Settings

Every app serves a different purpose. Some apps might need access to your contacts list, others don’t.  Change your security settings to match the purpose of the app. For example, Facebook doesn’t need unlimited access to my phone’s data, so I can set it to only have access while I'm using the app. Check out the National Cybersecurity Alliance’s (NCAs) article on how to manage your security settings for different apps.

Tip #3: Create Bizarre Passwords - Make them long and unique, then store them in a secure password manager

I have to be honest, this is a tough one. We’ve all heard that creating unique passwords for each online platform we use is key to keeping our information safe, but trying to remember what they are is like playing a game of roulette.

Is it this one? Nope. How about this one? Still no. Shoot, it could be any of a dozen unique passwords I've created that I also didn’t write down because they told me so, alright FINE, I’m going to create ONE unique password and use it for everything…

I see you! Don’t pretend you haven’t done this. And it makes sense right? How on earth are we supposed to keep track of them all?

Luckily, there’s an app for that! An app that you can change your security settings like we discussed above. How nifty! Apps like LastPass and Dashlane help remember your unique passwords for you. They are an easy password storage place that encrypts your data so hackers can’t get access.

Tip #4: Backup Your Data

If you’re really worried, backing up your data to a second storage location like google-drive or a hard-drive can be a huge life-safer. You know all those business documents we get everytime we sign up for a mortgage or need to submit our taxes? Having multiple secure copies can help you not lose everything if something happens.

Tip #5: Don’t fall for phishing emails - You know the ones

We’ve all seen them. The emails that have bad grammar, spell your name wrong, and demand you act FAST, or else. Don’t click on them! Just don’t. It’s bad joo-joo. Check out the Federal Trade Commisions article on how to recognize and avoid phishing scams, if you’re in doubt!

Tip #6: Install Anti-virus and Malware Protection. Period.

This tip is for those of us who aren’t super tech savvy. Most devices have already built-in antivirus and malware protection, but it’s always good to check! All your devices need antivirus and malware protection. Period. You shouldn’t be on the internet without it.

Tip #7: Use Secure Private Wifi - Avoid Public wifi

Using public wifi can put your personal data at risk, so as a rule of thumb, always use a secure connection that requires a password, especially if you’re working with personal information. Here is more information on how you can know your wifi connection is secure.

Tip #8: Encrypt Your Data

This is the same technique those password manager apps use. Hackers may be able to slip past your firewall, or trick you into clicking a phishing email attachment, but if your data is encrypted, they will have NOTHING. So if your personal or business data is sensitive, encryption is the best possible way to defend against hackers.

Tip #9: Keep Your Devices Updated

You know those little pop-ups that say, “Hey! A new update is available on your mobile phone or desktop device?” Don’t ignore those! Always keep your devices up to date. Microsoft, Apple, etc. are always pushing new updates to keep devices secure. Make sure to take advantage!

Tip #10: Remember Who You File-Share With and Why Don’t File-Share Sensitive Information

File Sharing is a way for more than one person to access a file or document at the same time, anytime they want. This includes people who needed access at some point in time, but no longer need that access. If your information is sensitive, be selective on who has permission to view, comment, or edit your documents.

File Sharing is an amazing tool to collaborate and expand on ideas, but how often do any of us go back and resolve the shared access, or give just the right amount of access in the first place?  Leaving open access to your shared documents can put your information at risk, so remember to modify who has access as time moves forward. For tips on how to modify permissions on shared google files, check out the following page.

Tip #11: Screen Locks - take advantage

You know those times when you accidentally leave your phone on the roof of your car because you had your hands full and it was a convenient place to put it temporarily? That really sucks when that happens! Using screen locks will prevent anyone who might stumble upon your lost phone from getting in and stealing your information. Use it!

Tip #12: Use Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)

As much as MFA can take some extra time to sign into your bank or investment account, it adds extra layers of protection to the sign-in process, so nobody but YOU can sign in. Think of it like a big brother making sure you get home safe after a party, you probably will get home safe without him, but just in that 1/1000th chance something goes wrong, he is there to make sure nothing bad happens to you.

KEY TAKEAWAY:

It’s one of the most scary and frustrating experiences to have your identity or credit card information stolen. I don’t know about you, but I DEFINITELY would prefer that never happen to me. Lucky for us, we have actionable steps that can help keep us safe. With password managers, multi-factor authentication, and more we can safely explore the internet to our hearts’ content.

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