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Happy Data Privacy Day 2015! Digital Guardian is thrilled to be a Data Privacy Day Champion for 2015. Data protection has been our mission since day one, so in keeping with the theme of the day we wanted to offer 10 tips to better protect your personal data, financial information, and privacy while online.
1. Keep your operating system and all software up to date.
This is a tip you’ll hear time and time again from security professionals. Those pesky OS and software updates are not only important from a functionality standpoint, but they more often than not contain critical security updates and vulnerability patches. Where possible, enable automatic software updates to streamline the process.
2. Encrypt your sensitive data.
Data encryption is no longer just for enterprises – there are many consumer tools (some free) that make it easy to encrypt your sensitive data. By using encryption you can ensure that your data will remain unreadable and safe, even if accessed by a malicious actor. Additionally, always encrypt sensitive data before copying to removable devices such as USB storage or portable hard drives. In doing so, you'll ensure that your sensitive information isn’t at risk if a device is lost or stolen.
3. Use antivirus software.
While it’s widely accepted that antivirus software won’t protect you against many types of threats, antivirus is still a smart choice for consumers as it offers baseline protection against common, well-known malware. At the minimum, install a reputable free antivirus tool and perform virus scans periodically.
4. Use a unique, complex password for every account you own.
Reusing passwords (or slightly modified passwords) across different accounts is just asking for trouble in the event of a hacking attack or data breach. Many times attackers will attempt to access your other accounts (banking, PayPal, etc) using login credentials that they have obtained for a different account you own. If you reuse passwords, a simple credential breach of a non-sensitive account you hold can grant attackers access to your most sensitive online accounts.
5. Securely archive or delete data you no longer need.
Minimizing the amount of data you store is not only good housekeeping for your devices, but it also minimizes the amount of information that is available to an attacker that has gained access to those devices. If you no longer need data, encrypt it and move it to an offline storage device or delete it altogether – particularly old bank statements, contracts, bills, health records, and work documents.
6. Regularly monitor activity on your online accounts.
No surprise here – the best way to stay on top of a compromised account or fraud is to monitor your account activity regularly. If you notice suspicious activity, notify the companies involved immediately. Even with other protections in place, vigilant monitoring is still often the fastest way to identify a compromise.
7. Change all of your passwords following news of an account compromise or data breach.
As consumers we see data breaches making the news all the time – but what do you do when a company or website with which you have an account gets breached? The most important first step is to change your passwords. By doing so you ensure that your old credentials are useless, even if stolen.
8. Manage your privacy settings for mobile applications and online accounts.
While it may seem like a daunting task in today’s day and age, keeping up with the privacy settings for different accounts and applications is critical. It’s still the best way to ensure that you aren’t giving companies (or individuals) access to information that you want to keep private.
9. Be wary of free Wi-Fi networks.
Hackers and online thieves often use unprotected Wi-Fi networks to carry out sniffing and/or man-in-the-middle attacks on unsuspecting victims, stealing credentials or other data in-transit. Avoid using free Wi-Fi networks, particularly in high traffic public places like cafes, airports, and similar places. If you must use an unprotected Wi-Fi network, be sure that HTTPS is enabled for any sites you visit – a good habit for all online activity.
10. Learn to recognize and avoid phishing attacks.
Social engineering tactics, particularly phishing attacks, are an incredibly popular tactic for cyber criminals. Why is that? Simply put, it’s often faster and easier for an attacker to trick another person into taking a desired action rather than conducting complex, manual hacking attacks. Phishing attacks typically have telltale signs such as unfamiliar senders, strange domain names, spoofed web pages or emails, and messages with links or attachments that you didn’t request. Leverage free online resources to train yourself to better identify phishing attacks, and avoid messages that appear suspect.
That’s it! We hope everyone enjoys Data Privacy Day 2015 and takes a moment to learn how to better protect their most sensitive information. Want more tips for protecting your personal data? Check out our blog post, “101 Data Protection Tips: How to Keep Your Passwords, Financial & Personal Information Safe” here: https://digitalguardian.com/blog/101-data-protection-tips-how-keep-your-passwords-financial-personal-information-safe.
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