10 ways to keep your personal data safe online

In the wake of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, what happens to our personal data online is (rightly and sensibly) a bigger talking point than ever.

The idea that giving our data away is a valid price for using free websites and online services is no longer taken as a given. The upcoming GDPR regulations are also focusing minds that individuals do – and should – have a lot more control over what happens to their digital information online.

While companies fundamentally need to comply with the new regulations, there are also some quick and easy steps that we can all take to make our data as safe as possible, lessening the chance of being targeted for identity theft or fraud, and only sharing what we are personally comfortable with.

 

So what should we be doing – and what should be avoided?

  1. Be clear who can see what – that means enabling, and checking, privacy settings for every social media site you use, and ensuring you only make payments through secured web pages when shopping or banking online.
  2. Have strong passwords – and don’t reuse them or write them down. We know this is tricky. Great passwords, in terms of strength, are generally hard to recall, while easy-to-remember ones are not. But it pays to be savvy here, because account security is everything. Also enable two-stage authentication where you can, so you can get back into your account with minimal fuss if you are hacked.
  3. Take care not to post information that is often used as security questions for internet banking services, such as your data of birth, mother’s maiden name or first pet. The more would-be fraudsters know about you, the easier it is to find, or convince someone to give them, the rest. Don’t help them.
  4. Don’t fall for dodgy or so-called phishing emails – your bank, or other outlets that have card details, won’t ask for sensitive details over email, so beware any emails that do, no matter how official looking. If in doubt, call the institution on a number that you know is real.
  5. Be careful where you log-on – take care to disconnect from a session if using public computers in libraries, for example, and be aware that public wifi is often not as secure as a home connection.
  6. On which note – make sure your home wifi is password-protected, so others can’t access it – both to try and get your details or piggyback on your data allowance.
  7. Keep spyware and virus scanners up to date on any device that you use to access the internet – viruses and keystroke loggers are both a big risk to your data.
  8. Be wary about who you befriend online, and who you give personal information such as your address out to. As the old saying goes, on the internet, no-one knows you’re a dog.
  9. Beware what pictures and status updates on social media tell a potential criminal about you – holiday pictures show you’re away from home, for example.
  10. Be sensible and always have your wits about you – only give out the information that is needed, don’t take risks with your personal information, or your safety, and if something feels wrong take heed and get yourself out of the situation.

The internet is a wonderful thing for so many reasons, but its power needs to be respected.

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