Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 by Taryn Adams
The privacy of your data is important, so it’s a good thing that the 28th of January is dedicated to raising awareness about online privacy. Data Protection Day commemorates the signing of Convention 108, the first international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection, way back in 1981.
Why is privacy so important? You may think you have nothing to hide, but your information is valuable, and can even be dangerous in the wrong hands. Some information is just embarrassing, like those cringe-worthy teen photos your mum put on Facebook. Other information is much more serious, such as your bank details or credit information. Because of this, it’s a good idea to know who has your information, how it’s used, and what steps you can take to keep it safe.
The websites and apps you use every day track information about you. If it’s a free service, tracking usually collects marketing data useful for advertisers. The tricky thing about tracking is that you might be tracked on one website, or across multiple websites, following you wherever you go on the internet. Your mobile devices even use GPS and other technologies to track your location while you are out and about, but if you don’t feel right about this, most phones let you turn off or restrict this in their settings.
Know what they know
How to stop the tracking:
Protect your accounts and devices
Your devices and accounts are a treasure trove of sensitive information. In the wrong hands, access can even allow people to impersonate you!
One way an attacker might try to access your device is to sneak in through a software flaw. It’s a little like someone breaking into a house by forcing an iffy lock. These flaws are called “vulnerabilities” and once software developers know about them, they fix them with a software update. But you only get the fix if you keep your software up-to-date! If you don’t, the flaw is still there for somebody else to try. Once you’re notified about updates—especially for Windows, macOS, iOS, or Android—don’t wait! Install them as soon as possible.
Your password is your key
Another way an attacker might access your information is to break into your accounts. Passwords are often the only thing keeping someone out, and there are lots of ways to get a password. Attackers can guess or break simple passwords, or find your password in a data breach database—if a site’s been hacked. And if you use the same password everywhere, it’s easy to check if credentials that work on one site happen to work on another.
Wow! All these doors with only one key!
Become a password master
We’ve heard it all before, and we all know we’re supposed to use strong passwords, and different passwords everywhere. But in practice, it’s hard to create and remember all those passwords. It’s especially hard to remember passwords you don’t use often (hey, what’s my superannuation login again?)
The good news is, there are tools to help. A Password Manager will store (and even generate) strong passwords for you, so you don’t need a perfect memory. Password managers use strong encryption and a host of other features to keep your passwords safe. Lifehacker has a great guide to help you choose a password manager.
Add an extra layer of protection
You can make things even more difficult for attackers by adding Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). Most types use something you know (your password) as well as something you have (usually your phone). Your bank already does this: you need both your ATM card and your PIN to get your money. When you try to log in with your password, you’ll be asked for a code sent to you in an SMS or email, or generated in an app like Authy or Google Authenticator. Instead of your phone, you could use a piece of hardware like a YubiKey. This means that even if someone gets your password, they still need access to your phone, email, or key—or they can’t get in!
How to keep your devices and accounts safe
Now that you know what’s out there and have the tools to beat the crooks and keep your information and devices safe, it’s time you take a quick look and see just what people can find out about you.