Tips To Defend Your Personal Privacy Online
News of multiple database breaches, a surge in new phishing attempts on social network sites and the recent Apple location snafu has left people wondering how secure their online privacy really is. Even yesterday on twitter, Lady Gaga had to reprimand the person who unleashed a worm on the Internet by hacking her twitter account.
The recent Sony PlayStation Network, WordPress, RSA, and Epsilon data breaches are reminders that companies, big and small, hold a lot of our data online, and while they have the best intentions to keep that information safe – there are occasions when that data becomes compromised. That’s why people need to take steps to protect the personal data that they make available online. Think of it this way, how many sites have your credit card, phone number or even your social security number?
And with the recent news about Apple, everyone is hyper aware of their privacy on their digital devices: whether it’s their smartphone, tablet or PC. Sometimes discoveries like this are a blessing in disguise; they force the industry as a whole to take a step back and think through how we can all stay safer and understand what’s best for consumers. Yesterday on Forum (show on NPR), Michael Kransy hosted a segment on location services — many of the callers felt very vulnerable and unaware of what to do to protect their privacy. Here at Lookout we’re huge advocates of transparency and encourage all companies, big (aka Google and Apple) and small (app developers), to be clear about the private information they access, and their policies for handling that information. The more informed people are, the better decisions they can make. Armed with the right information, people can and take steps to control their privacy and their online identity. With that in mind, here are a few simple things you can do to protect your online identity:
1. Always Create Unique Passwords. Create different passwords across your various accounts. We know it can be hard to manage several passwords, but if one of your accounts is hacked, you don’t want to give them the keys to unlock your other accounts. Trouble remembering your passwords? There are several password keepers available out there that might be helpful. Try Last Pass or 1Password.
2. Set a Strong Password and Frequently Change it. Your password should be at least 8 characters long and include a variety of letters (capital and lowercase), symbols and numbers. While it can be a nuisance to regularly change your password, this adds another layer of protection to ensure your private information is safe. We recommend you change your password once every 3 months at the minimum.
3. Update your phone, computer and third party application software. Always take the extra time to download all software updates. Often, these will include patches to security flaws found in the software. This includes Windows, iOS, Android, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Sun Java, Adobe Reader, Apple iTunes, Angry Birds, Google Maps, Twitter, Facebook… to name a few.
4. Protect your phone, tablets and computer from malware. Downloading a security app like Lookout Mobile Security for your phone or tablet and antivirus software for your PC is a simple way to prevent malicious applications from gaining access to your device and your personal information.
5. Be careful clicking on links within emails, SMS or social networking sites that ask for your personal information. In phishing attacks, criminals will use these emails to lure people to phony Web sites that look similar to real sites of the company, organization, or agency they’re impersonating. Banking, social networking, donation and government/tax sites are the most frequently impersonated websites. Also, check the URL carefully, many phishing sites may have a URL that looks very similar to the legitimate site like paypai.com instead of paypal.com.
6. Only enter your account or credit card information on a site that begins with “https//” or has the lock symbol . If a website ever asks you to enter your account or credit card information, always check to see that the web address begins with “https” or you see a lock symbol. Open networks, those that begin with just “http” means anyone (including malicious hackers) could potentially steal information like usernames, passwords and credit card numbers, which could lead to identity theft.