Top 5 Useful Data Protection Tips to Safeguard Your Identity
People of a tin foil hat disposition will tell you that you have to unplug your ethernet cable, throw away your phone, and live in a cave if you don't want to be tracked and spied upon by your Internet service provider, the evil government or the equally evil Mark Zuckerberg.
Heeding this advice is neither practical nor a particularly good idea. It is true, however, that the whole concept of the Internet revolves around millions of devices sending and receiving information which, in many cases, could be quite sensitive. It's also true that many individuals and organizations want to get their hands on that information and use it for all sorts of reasons. Some of them want to give you targeted ads and content that you are likely to be interested in. Others, however, want to track you for more nefarious purposes. All in all, protecting your online identity has never been as important as it is now. Today, we'll show you some of the things that can stop the bad guys from stealing your data.
- Strong Passwords
You are probably sick of hearing it, but the "It's like leaving the front door of your home unlocked" cliché does make for a good analogy. Although there are many problems with the traditional username-and-password authentication system, it is here to stay, and it's up to you to make sure that, despite all its shortcomings, you know how to use it properly. In most cases, a good password is the only thing that stands between the cybercriminal and your identity. It's fairly long, it consists of letters, numbers, punctuation, and special characters, and, crucially, it's unique.
This is where the biggest problem with passwords as a means of securing an account lies. People just can't remember all those random, unique passwords. Luckily, there are tools like the Cyclonis Password Manager that can help you overcome the problem. To learn more about it, click here.
- Two-Factor Authentication
Different letters, numbers, and other symbols make a password strong because it's difficult to guess the exact combination of all the characters. If the bad guys steal the combination, however, the commas and the exclamation marks won't do much to stop them. Enter two-factor authentication.
Two-factor authentication (also known as "Multi-factor authentication" and "Two-step verification) as a concept was born a while ago, but it wasn't until big service providers realized that people are struggling with managing their passwords that we saw it implemented online. The idea of two-factor authentication is that whenever you're trying to log in to your account, in addition to your password, you need to enter a code which is either generated by an application on your phone or is sent to you via email or text message. It's a clever way of making sure that you are who you say you are, and although it's not infallible, if it is available, you should turn it on.
- Device Encryption
So far, we talked about ways of securing your online accounts. Offline protection is also important. You likely have some private data stored locally, and you won't be happy if your hard drive falls into the wrong hands. If it does, all the attacker needs to do to get to your family photos and important documents is plug the drive into a PC and press the Power button. Unless of course, your files are encrypted.
When you hear about encryption of files, you might be thinking about ransomware infections that leave you locked out of your data. The difference here is that you have the key that unlocks your files, and you don't need to pay for it. Most versions of Windows and MacOS have built-in tools that can encrypt your hard drive. Using them will ensure that if someone steals your device, they won't be able to steal something much more valuable – your data.
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that the Internet is all about devices exchanging information with one another. While it's in transit, this information can be intercepted by the so-called Men-in-the-Middle (MITM). The purpose of the HTTPS protocol is to encrypt the data meaning that if someone gets their hands on it, they won't be able to read it.
Up until now, browsers indicated websites served over HTTPS with the green padlock you see in the address bar. Recently, however, Google's development team decided to do some changes, and in a few months' time, the Chrome browser will flag all websites that don't support HTTPS as "Not Secure." Keep an eye on the indicators, and if you see that the communication isn't going through HTTPS, do not send any private data.
- Fewer Mouse Clicks
Cyberattacks come in many different varieties. Some of them are clever, some of them aren't. Most, if not all, however, rely on you clicking your mouse on a link or a file that shouldn't be opened. The crooks' social engineering techniques have evolved quite a bit over the last few years, and they now know how powerful human curiosity can be.
Saying "don't take the bait" isn't going to help anyone, but if you treat every single thing on the Internet with suspicion, you might just dodge the countless malvertising, phishing, and malware attacks that could compromise your data.
You don't need to be an information security expert to know how to properly build your defenses and protect your identity. You do need to be aware of the risks, however, and you need to know how to use the tools that can help you stay safe.