Do you think that your personal information is safe online? The sad reality is that it isn’t. Whenever you share any personal data online or give apps access to your device, that data lives on.
Another sad part of this fact is that it’s pretty much impossible to live in today’s world and not share any personal data. Digital devices play a significant role in our lives. And they all ask for data. But there are many ways people can mitigate the amount of data that various entities gather and store about them. Read on to find out how.
What Threatens Personal Data When It’s Online?
The first and most obvious answer would be cybercriminals. There are many types of cybercriminals since they use different techniques to target their victims.
Hackers, for instance, can use DDOS and man-in-the-middle attacks to get what they want. Some scammers also employ phishing and pharming attacks. And let’s not forget about blackmailers who use exploits like sextortion. These criminals can target regular people, big corporations, and small businesses.
Another alarming issue for consumers is the many tracking and data gathering entities out there. Every device a person uses is a tool for browsers, apps, websites, ISPs, governments, and other parties to siphon information. They store the gathered data on servers and use it to create all sorts of personalized experiences.
For one, such data is a jackpot for hackers. But even corporations themselves can use it to adjust the costs of their services, etc.. Like deciding whether to raise health insurance costs or not based on how much a person watches TV.
Now, this might lead to people wondering how they can keep their data safe. While there’s no way to guarantee the safety of personal information once it’s online, you can do some damage control. Here are six ways people can keep their personal data safe online.
6 Ways To Protect Personal Data From Online Threats
1. Share Less
Sure, this might be an obvious thing to say. But it’s still worth mentioning for those who tend to forget that oversharing is a bad thing. And it’s possible to share personal details in many ways, often without consciously thinking about it as such:
- social media sharing,
- filling out a survey,
- allowing an app to access contacts/files/etc. on a smartphone.
Even when someone tends only to share a little bit of themselves here and there, it can be put together to create a more intrusive profile. Third-parties can harvest information like location, background, political leaning, contact details, and connected accounts. So, always try to think about who you share data with and how they plan to use it.
2. Finetune Those Social Settings
Social media networks are big on harvesting data. And people themselves share their information on social platforms, no questions asked. It isn’t necessary to steer away from them entirely (although it would be better), but changing some settings can help. Adjust the privacy and security settings of every social network you have an account on.
3. Check “Have I Been Pwned”
Data breaches are the new normal. There isn’t much the average internet user can do to stop them. What you can do is check sites like Have I Been Pwned to see whether any sites compromised your data because of a cyber attack. Enter your email address into the search bar, and the website will show whether any accounts with that email been exposed in data breaches.
4. An IP Address is a Digital Footprint
Every network has an IP address that serves as a way for websites, apps, and other entities to identify it. This address contains some information about the network, including its geographical location. The problem is, outsiders use this address to profile the person using that network and gather data about them.
There are tools like VPNs that can hide your real IP address, providing anonymity. Getting a VPN is a good idea in terms of protecting a network from hacking attempts, including man-in-the-middle attacks.
5. Terms and Conditions Do Matter
No one likes reading through the terms and conditions when creating an account or using an app. T&Cs are long, full of overcomplicated jargon, and, let’s be honest, boring. But it is crucial to read them. The terms and conditions reveal how particular company stores and uses the data that it collects. You should know about it before putting any trust in a website or app.
6. Browsers Collect Massive Amounts of Information
When people use browsers like Chrome and Safari, their every action is tracked and recorded. These browsers use that data to create a better experience, but they can also sell it and share it with third parties. Private browsers like Brave and Tor are better options. They block trackers and don’t gather or sell your data to advertisers. In the case of Tor, it also provides anonymity online.
Privacy and digital devices don’t mix well. Companies have too many ways of gathering data from everyone that uses their services. It makes it almost impossible to keep your information private. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying to protect one’s privacy anyway. Be mindful of what you share and whom you share it with. Plus, use some tools, such as private browsers or VPNs, for more private and secure experience online.