15 ways to protect yourself online

| ~6 min read •
1168 words

A Tale of Two Lives
  • It’s 8 in the morning and you wake up to the alarm. From habit, you grab your mobile phone and aimlessly scroll through your Facebook newsfeed. 
  • You’re having lunch alone today, so you use the time to catch up on your Netflix shows. 
  • It’s late in the afternoon and you’re about to get off work. You go to your Chase app and check your account balance to decide if you can drop by Target on the way home.
  • You’re in bed, about ready to call it a day. You remembered a couple of things you need to replenish, so you open Amazon and place an order right before you fall asleep.

Your body is awake, so your online presence is active. It’s 2022, and we all live in 2 worlds: the digital and the physical world. 

 

Trails of Information

Every move you make in the physical world leaves a trail. The roads you drive on, the stores you visit, the foods you order, and the people you speak with – these are all points of information that correspond to details about you. But unlike your movement in the digital world, your physical trail is not always recorded. In the digital world, information about you and your choices are collected, stored, and processed by the websites that you visit and use. 

 

Safety Measures

Keeping safe is instinctive to every human being. Every day, you go through a routine of physical safety measures. You want to protect your valuables, so you lock your car and the door to your home. Maybe you even set a house alarm and check the windows. You recognize the vulnerabilities in your physical space – and take measures to protect yourself accordingly.

But are you aware of how vulnerable you are in the digital space?

In the same way that you secure access to your physical valuables – there are ways that you can keep your digital valuables (i.e. your data) protected:

 

How To Protect Your Digital Data Privacy 
  1. Secure your smartphone. Set your smartphone screen to timeout in less than a minute, and your computer to lock within 5 minutes. You will also want to set a strong pin or passcode to unlock these devices when it is time to use it. These security features will help protect either device in case they are lost or stolen. It prevents someone from accessing the information on the device. If biometrics are available, it is recommended to use this method as well. 
  2. Keep your device’s software up to date. It is recommended to enable the auto-update feature on your devices to ensure that you always have the most recent version. That way you will always be protected from new vulnerabilities hackers find in the device’s OS
  3. Backup your data. It’s important to back up your phone so that you have a secure archive of your important information – this gives you the ability to restore your device quickly and seamlessly in the event of a data loss.
  4. Create strong passwords for your key accounts (email, financial, investment, etc). Set up multi-factor authentication for your key accounts, and enable a biometric feature when available.  Securing your email and sensitive account information is crucial to your data privacy. 
  5. Review privacy policies and app permissions before downloading new apps. For existing apps, be sure to review this information so that you are aware of what data these apps will store and what permissions you are giving them access to on your device. Only download apps from your device’s official app store (Android, Apple, Microsoft).
  6. Configure your browser settings. Each internet browser comes with privacy settings. Review these settings to familiarize yourself with how to create a safe browsing experience.  You will also want to practice good browser hygiene. This means clearing your browsing history, cookies, and cache history. Some cookies, for example, are used to track your activity across the websites you visit. Since this is usually done without your authorization, they are considered a threat to your online privacy. By practicing good browser hygiene, you help remove any corrupt files before they can cause damage. 
  7. Get Anti-virus software. Anti-virus software helps protect your computer against known viruses, so you may be able to detect and remove the virus before it can do any damage.
  8. Be mindful of data encryption. To prevent attackers from stealing your personal information, online submissions should be encrypted so that the appropriate recipient can only read them. Many sites use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Hypertext Transport Protocol Secure (HTTPS). Look for a lock in the browser, usually to the left or right of the web address. This indicates that your information is encrypted.
  9. Limit location permissions. Some apps have access to the mobile device’s location services and thus have access to the user’s approximate physical location. For apps that require access to location data to function, consider limiting this access to when the app is in use only.
  10. Don’t connect to public Wi-Fi when you are accessing sensitive information. You never know who is snooping on these networks.  If you need to access the internet when you are away from your home, use your mobile data or enable your smartphone’s hotspot feature.
  11. Run your credit at least once every few months. By doing so you will be able to catch any unauthorized activity and stop it immediately.  Signup for your social security administration account.  Even if you are many years away from retirement, securing this account with a strong password and multifactor authentication can prevent hackers from accessing your identity information.
  12. Be careful with how much personal information you share on social media. Also, if you are signing up for a new site that allows you to use your social media login credentials, it is recommended not to do this. Create a new username and password. That way, if one site is compromised, the hacker cannot use the information to access your account.
  13. Always be cautious when clicking on a link in your email’s inbox. Verify the sender and the email address associated with the sender to make sure it looks legit. 
  14. Delete unused apps. To avoid unnecessary data collection, uninstall apps you no longer use.
  15. Make an offline checklist of your devices, your email accounts, your financial accounts, and any other account that stores your data. You don’t want to list usernames and passwords, but you can use the checklist to check off the actions you have taken or are currently taking to keep your data privacy strong for each device and account.  While the above list can be expanded, it gives you a good starting point for improving your data privacy.

With the way the world works now, spending time online and putting some of your information on websites are unavoidable. But don’t you worry! You can be proactive in protecting your data privacy by following the steps listed above – and if it gets overwhelming, 3GO has your back!

3GO is on a mission to keep people like you safe online

 

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