Keeping Your Personal Data Safe and Secure

With data leaks happening more frequently – resulting in millions of people’s information being shared – you might be wondering how you can stay safe online. I’ve worked in website development for many years and, while I’m no IT expert, I can offer a few simple tips to help keep your accounts secure.

  • Have you been using the same password for years? Is your password strong enough? Trust me, “Password1” isn’t going to provide you with the security you need. The length and uniqueness of your password directly affects how secure it is. If you’re using names, birthdays, favorite hobbies/sports, anniversaries or anything else personal to you, you’re making it easy for hackers. I recommend using a combination of symbols, numbers and upper/lower case characters – even going as far as typing out an entire sentence that’s memorable only to you.
  • Always use a different password for online accounts. If you don’t, and one site is compromised, they are all potentially insecure. If remembering your password is a problem, then, at the very least, make sure you have a unique password for your email account. This is where all your passwords will be sent for resetting and it is the weakest point.
  • The allure of free WiFi is tempting, but this is an invitation to give away personal info. Most public networks have a shared password, or no password at all, making it easy for anyone to access your data. Don’t browse the Internet through public WiFi without a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN encrypts your data while you browse the Internet. There are a lot of services available that make it as easy as opening an app.
  • Be careful what you sign up for. Many scams use a form of social engineering – collecting your information from unassuming places like quizzes, contests, games and other forms of harmless looking sites. Did you give your name and email on a quiz to find out what Harry Potter character you are? Give your age and birthday on another to find out what your zodiac is? There is always a chance that data is linked and now hackers have all of that information. Create a different email from your work/personal email when signing up for things. 
  • As a general rule of thumb don’t let any apps or websites have access to your social media accounts, unless you know how they will be using your data. Some game apps that link to your social accounts have terms that include selling your account activity to advertisers. Unless you want to read through the entire terms and conditions, it’s generally best to just not allow access.