It can be overwhelming to consider how to protect your data. Stories about online hacking and data privacy grab headlines daily, and a report by the National Cyber Security Alliance revealed that Americans are more worried about data privacy than losing their income. However, less than half of the respondents understand concepts such as turning off location tracking or that companies collect user data online.
But even if you’re savvier than the person who guiltily uses the same password over and over because they don’t want to keep track of multiple passwords, you still may fall victim to these two common misconceptions about data privacy.
1. The only data I’m concerned about is personal financial information, such as my credit cards, banking information and social security number.
Consider what will happen if a hacker ruins your system, deletes files, and you lose everything on your computer. People often overlook protecting their physical hardware and assume the only risk is online. Do you have pictures, resumes, movies, books and other important files that would be inconvenient, expensive or maybe even impossible to replace? Today, computer backup solutions are vital for protecting against complete data loss and destruction.
Financial information is important to safeguard and there are many tips and tools available. The best practice is caution when giving any personal information online. When websites ask you to give answers to security questions such as, 'What’s your mother’s maiden name?', don’t give accurate answers because those questions can be easily researched by people looking to access your accounts.
You should be extremely vigilant when giving out your social security number and limit it to your online banking platform and credit or background check services. Even giving only your last four digits carries risk, as the rest of your social security number will be more easily discoverable.
When online banking, never choose a user name or a password you use anywhere else. It may seem like overkill to have both a unique username and password. However, today hackings of big companies such as Target, eBay, and Kickstarter are translating to users’ credentials being stolen. From there, it’s possible for the thieves to try the hacked credentials at online banking sites and access bank accounts. As hackings of major companies become more common, at some point you’ll wish you had taken the precaution of single-use login credentials when a seemingly secure website you use regularly is compromised.
Another online banking safety practice to live by is never log in using public Wi-Fi. Wait until you are at home with protected Wi-Fi so you don’t risk someone using the connection to steal your login credentials.
2. I don’t see the downside of companies collecting data from my online activities. I like how convenient it is to be served relevant advertising.
Companies targeting people with pertinent advertisements online isn’t a concern for many. But, the reality that companies have and are willing to sell or share information such as your income, family size, address, phone number, email address, and more is a concern.
You can limit the transactional nature between yourself, as an online user, and websites, as data collecting machines, by making a few key changes.
First, enable private or incognito browsing. This means turn on the settings in your browser that erase browser history, cookies, and temporary internet files. Sites cookie you to track your activities after you leave their site and can access your browser history to analyze your online habits.
If you’re concerned about keeping your data private and want be more vigilant, you can hide your IP address while you’re online by using a free Virtual Private Network (VPN). The VPN routes your signal through different servers, instead of just the one in your office or living room), so location data from your personal IP address isn’t accessible.
Social media sites, most notably Facebook, generate their main revenue stream through online advertising. In order to protect and grow their business, social sites try to collect as much data as possible. If you’d prefer to withhold your data from being used to grow someone else’s business and to protect yourself from potential hackers or identity thieves, try to limit the information you give social sites. While filling out social media profiles, don’t give information such as your date of birth, which gives social sites demographic data while leaving you more vulnerable.