The advent of the internet brought with it accessibility, enlightenment, and connectivity on a scale humans previously never thought was possible. Unfortunately, there are downsides to this unprecedented access to information. More people than ever before will be subject to some form of invasion of their privacy than people in the pre-internet era and the costs of such invasions of privacy can be enormous. The amount of damage done can depend on the nefariousness of the individuals that got their hands on your data or the kind of data that was illicitly acquired in the first place. For this reason, we have compiled a list of 10 steps anyone can take to immediately protect themselves from falling victim to online data theft.
1. Regularly Update Your Passwords
My brother called me frantically the other day worried that his Instagram account where he has about 100 thousand followers had been hijacked. I asked him if he regularly updates his passwords and he went silent on the other end of the phone. To protect your social network accounts, email accounts, or online bank accounts, it can’t be overemphasized how important it is to change your passwords regularly. Also the more obscure you can make the password the better. Try mixing in uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Also for good measure make your passwords as long as possible so that if you were subject to a brute force attack it would make it near impossible to crack your password and gain access to your information.
2. Use Encryption Technology
If you are sending sensitive information across the internet, you might want to do your research and make sure your information is being sent over encrypted channels. The way encryption works is that it basically takes your information as you hit the send button, scrambles it so that if it were intercepted while en-route to the receiver the intercepting party will get junk and not be able to read your messages. The good news is that encryption technology has been downgraded from being military-grade technology and is now available for civilian use.
3. Cover Up Your Computer Webcam
I recently saw a picture of one of the god-father’s of the internet (Mark Zuckerberg) covering up the webcam camera of his computer. If he is doing it, then you should probably be doing it too. A lot of hackers today seize the webcams of unsuspecting victims, record them in compromising situations and later on use the unscrupulously gained footage to blackmail these victims for money. To avoid this happening to you all you need to do is find a duct tape to place over your webcam camera when it is not in use.
4. Use A Virtual Private Network
Unsecure or public networks are a goldmine for “man in the middle” hackers because all they have to do is gain access to the channel in between the sender and the receiver and next thing you know they have access to every bit of information you sent over a network they are snooping on. A virtual private network provides an added layer of security and encryption so it is best to turn them on when you go to the airport or your favorite coffee shop to browse the internet.
5. Watch Out For Phising Scams
If only John Podesta, the former chairman to Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign heed this advice Mrs Clinton might just have been handed the keys to the most powerful office in the land. Phising is basically a data breaching technique used by nefarious individuals to gain access to your accounts. These attacks come in the form of an email with a link to a website you probably frequent often. In the email, they request you use the link they provided to log into your account and make some changes. Once you click on the link and enter your username and password, the information you provided is recorded and then used to gain access to your real account. To prevent this, if you ever get one of these emails, delete the email and then type the url of the website you want to make changes to into the browser of your choice. Under no circumstance should you change your log in details through a link provided in an email sent to your inbox.
6. Lock Your Screens
This one seems like a no-brainer, but too many people are guilty of leaving their computer and mobile screens unlocked and unattended. People need to set shorter periods of time within which their screens stay unlocked while they are unattended period. This can help prevent your machine remaining unlocked if it were to get stolen or fall into the wrong hands.
7. Employ Two Factor Authentication
Two factor authentication is another method with which you can protect yourself from getting your privacy invaded. The way it works is simple, you have whatever website you are logging into, call you or send you a text that you can use to log into your account whenever you employ your first factor of authentication (i.e: your email or username and password). This way, if someone were ever to gain access to your username and password, they would still need to have the website they are logging onto send them a text or phone call with a code granting them access to your account. If they don’t have your phone however, there is little they can do to gain access to your account even if they had your user name and password in the first place.
8. Browse The Internet With The Tor browser
The online router (Tor) is a free browser and open network that helps individuals defend against network surveillance that threatens the freedom and privacy of individuals.
Tor works by bouncing indiviidual communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.
Browsing the internet with the Tor browser can be a powerful addition to your online privacy arsenal as it makes people trying to track where your internet requests are coming from basically blind, leaving you virtually untraceable online. To make yourself even more difficult to surveil, use an extra layer of protection like a virtual private network(VPN). Stop by torproject.org to download one of the most secure browsers you will ever use.
9. Be Wary Of Third Party Apps
Third party apps are plug-ins of sorts that you add to your app or website to extend its functionality and make it more powerful. To protect yourself from installing non well to do third party apps, make sure the third party apps you download are familiar ones and have a track record of not being used for evil purposes. This can be done by simply looking at the reviews and ratings section of whatever app platform you are downloading the app from.
10.Patronize Only Secure Websites When Shopping Online.
Online shopping can be one of the areas of virtual existence where if one were to fall for a data breach, the consequences of such a misstep could have devastating consequences. Make sure when you are shopping online that the sites you are shopping with have “https” at the beginning of their urls. Another indicator of a safe to shop website is that the browsers you are viewing the website on has their url fields turn green. Some “safe to shop” websites have a padlock indicator show up in the browser of the website to indicate that your personal information is being transmitted to their site in a safe and secure manner. A final step you can take is just to search for the online retailer’s secure socket layer (ssL) certificate.
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