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We now live in a world saturated by technology. Many of us forget just how much personal information we relinquish to the companies whose devices and services we utilize. Almost every time we sign up for an online newsletter, register a new online account, run a Google search or watch an online video, information is being collected on our identities and personal preferences. Though some of this data collection is practically inescapable, as most companies require a certain amount of personal information to be provided in order to utilize their services, you can take steps to limit the extent to which your data is collected and tracked.
Before you register for an online site, spend an afternoon adding extra layers of security to the accounts and devices you already use. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Strengthen and Vary Your Passwords
Most of us are guilty of using the same one or two passwords for the majority of our digital accounts. Though it can be difficult to remember dozens of different passwords, repeated use of a singular password makes all of your accounts vulnerable in case of a hack or data leak. If you struggle to remember a number of unique passwords, consider having a “core” password that you modify slightly for each account you use. Instead of using “Rainbow1958” as your password for every site, add “FB” to the end of the password for your Facebook account, or “TW” for Twitter. When possible, add special characters such as asterisks and exclamation points to passwords, too. Create a document to remind you of your passwords, writing out hints to help you recall each password rather than transcribing them directly. In this way, you can keep track of your login information while limiting the likeliness of your accounts being hacked.
Add Additional Layers of Account Verification
Whenever possible, add layers of security to your digital accounts. Known as multi-factor authentication, the process of using two or more pieces of “proof” to protect your digital accounts is one of the best ways to protect your personal data. Set up your accounts to request personal identification numbers (PINs) or fingerprint scans, for instance. Use tricky security questions to protect your accounts, too. By doing so, you just might be able to prevent your accounts from being hacked even if your password is leaked.
Keep Things Up To Date
Hackers often take advantage of loopholes they’ve discovered in old versions of software and operating systems. To avoid this becoming a problem for users, many companies, such as Microsoft, now “force” updates on their users within certain time frames. Though these mandatory updates can be bothersome, they’re a good way to keep your devices and accounts secure.For apps and software you trust, consider changing your settings to allow for automatic updates. If you’d rather update software manually, modify your settings so that you receive notifications of when updates are available. For software that doesn’t allow for simple or automatic updates, such as certain computer programs, consider setting up a reminder for yourself to check for updates every few months. In doing so, you’ll be making your devices less vulnerable to attack.
Be Careful with Links, Attachments, and Downloads
Most of us know not to click the links found in our spam emails. Despite thinking we’re safe from dodgy links and websites, scammers have become increasingly sophisticated, replicating email templates and webpages with startling accuracy. When visiting sites dealing with particularly vulnerable personal data, such as financial information, be sure to double-check URLs to ensure that you’re visiting authentic sites. Only download software from legitimate websites and be particularly careful when clicking links that redirect you to other sites. When in doubt, don’t click a link or initiate a download. No program or file is worth infecting your device!
As much as we rely on our technological devices, we often forget that they’re hardly indestructible or impenetrable. Photos, videos, and important files should all be copied and stored in a secure digital cloud or on an external hard drive. For additional security, add password protection to your files. Most of us have files and photos that we wouldn’t want others to see! By backing up your data and protecting it with passwords, you can keep your private images and information safe and secure.
Check Your Privacy Settings on Google, Facebook, Apps, etc.
If you haven’t looked at your privacy settings on your digital accounts in a while, now is the time to do so. Companies like Facebook and Google collect massive amounts of personal data from us. Though most sites have gotten better about notifying users about their data collection policies, many continue to have default security settings that are less than ideal. Do you know, for instance, if Google is tracking your “location history” at the moment? Do you know what information Facebook is using for advertising purposes? If not, it’s time to check your settings! Though you can’t totally prevent data collection, you can change many settings to limit the extent to which your information is being tracked and presented to others.
Modifying privacy settings, creating digital backups, and updating programs and applications is hardly anyone’s idea of a good time. Though adding layers of protection to your online data may be a hassle, doing so is worth it in the long run. The next time you sign up for a new online service, be sure to adjust your settings shortly after completing the registration process. In doing so, you’ll be able to keep your personal data as secure as possible.
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