A lot has happened over the last few years bringing privacy and user data protection to the realm of front page news on a more consistent basis. From Facebook breaches and misuse of data to the European Unions GDPR which came into effect last year, the need for personal responsibility in managing and taking care of our own data has never been more important.
Below are some easy ways which you can help protect yourself and your data online.
Cover your webcam
Back in 2016, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was pictured working in his office and people noticed that he had his webcam covered over with a piece of tape. This sparked hundreds of articles online (like this from the NY TIMES) about why people should cover their own cameras. In short, it can be relatively easy to gain access and switch it on without you knowing so all cameras should be covered unless you are using them.
Use better passwords
This is self explanatory - gone are the days of 123456 and password. More robust and stronger passwords are required and most accounts online now need a mixture of letters, numbers and often symbols too. Check out our article for tips on how to make and remember stronger passwords.
Use, and look for SSL certificates
If you run or have your own website, then you need to purchase an SSL cert. If you are browsing the web, look for one too. Simple as. An SSL certificate is the green lock commonly seen next to the search bar on your browser and signifies that the webpage is protected from hackers trying to intercept data being transferred eg: bank or payment details. Our post on SSL certificates will give you a better idea of why you should use them.
Review your app permissions
When installing a new app on your phone we tend to just accept everything that pops up in order for us to use said application. For instance, it’s pretty obvious that a messaging app such as WhatsApp or Signal would need access to your contacts. However, you’d be surprised just what access some applications have to your phone which have little or nothing to do with it’s primary functions - such as location access. A quick browse through the app permissions on your phone can aid in a little spring cleaning and free up some space too.
Use a VPN
VPN’s seem more complicated than what they are. Well, how they work is complex but the idea behind them is simple. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to browse the internet under an address that’s not your own, in effect allowing you to access the internet anonymously. The many benefits of a VPN include very high security, anonymity and near total freedom as you can access sites all over the world that may have been blocked off to you before due to the country you are browsing from for example.
Google, it has to be said has been rather unscathed in the recent privacy and data scandals that have plagued other Silicon Valley tech firms. However, as they continue to flex their advertising muscle more and more, some alarm bells have begun to ring at the recent announcement that Google is planning on making it a lot harder to block ads in the upcoming versions of it’s web browser.
Using a more privacy focused browser like Firefox or DuckDuckGo is a simple fix and gives you more peace of mind knows your browsing activity isn’t being track. At least not as much anyway.
Be aware of the scams
Fraud is big business. We’ve all gotten emails from a prince looking for investment or a notification that we have won a lottery - by now, hopefully those should be really easy to spot as being fake but there are a lot more sophisticated methods of tricking you into getting your credit card details. Most of us have heard of Phising, but have you heard of Vishing? or Smishing? There’s a short read here on what those terms means and how to spot them.
Making sure your software, operating system, anti virus etc are frequently updated goes a long well in taking the basic but essential steps in protecting yourself and your data.
There we go. 8 simple tricks to help you stay safe online. Just one last thing to do now.