Protecting your personal information is essential to reduce your risk of falling victim to identity and data theft. Whether at an organizational level or individual level, keeping your data safe from hackers is crucial, especially when that information can be used against you.
In the modern world, connecting is a part of life. Whether you’re reading work or sending messages to a loved one, we spend more time than ever before on the internet. Therefore, keeping our data safe has never been more important.
This article will talk about a couple of safety precautions for social media privacy and to keep your personal information safe online. We’ll even showcase some of the case studies of data breaches on companies.
Let’s get started.
Where does your personal data exist?
Personal data refers to any information which is related to an identifiable natural person. Essentially, it is data that can identify a person. It could be your social security number, your credit card information, or other sensitive data.
Nowadays, even seemingly harmless information, such as your birthday, could also be used by criminals. While keeping offline personal data safe is simple, safeguarding your online personal information isn’t as easy.
This personal data can exist in many places – your social data can exist on Facebook servers and your search history as well as location history can also be stored on Google servers. This data is often anonymised and then sold to media advertisers so that they can target you for their products and services.
Why is it important to keep your personal data safe?
Why should we keep our personal data safe in the first place?
If you are getting something for free on the internet, you are the product. By you, I am referring to your data. Unfortunately, it is hard to attain complete privacy online.
Should criminals gain sensitive information about you, you could end up a victim of identity theft. This is where another person uses your personal identifying information to commit fraud, for example, making unauthorized transactions or other crimes.
Here are some reminders that everyone is a potential victim of identity theft.
Data theft example 1 – LinkedIn
Promoting your business on social media is essential to increase sales nowadays. It is a goldmine considering more than 53% of the total global population is using social media.
In 2012, one of the most popular social networks for business professionals, LinkedIn fell victim to a social engineering attack.
Unassociated passwords to 165 million user accounts were stolen by cybercriminals. They were later posted to a Russian hacker forum.
Fortunately, LinkedIn was made aware of the breach and reset the passwords to affected accounts.
Data theft example 2 – Canva
Boasting a collection of more than over a million free stock images for you to use, Canva is one of the best free tools for creating social media graphics.
However, in 2019, Canva was hit with an attack that leaked the personal information of more than 137 million user accounts. Usernames, names, email addresses, and cities of residence are some of the information that was exposed by the suspected culprits, Gnosticplayers.
The company promptly notified users to change their passwords but approximately 4 million Canva accounts had their passwords decrypted. Canva countered this by invalidating unchanged passwords and notifying users with unencrypted passwords.
Data theft example 3 – Yahoo
In 2013 and 2014, Yahoo fell victim to what would be known as the largest data breach in history. The hackers, who Yahoo believes to have been state-sponsored, managed to steal data from as many as three billion user accounts. All of the user accounts had been affected by this breach.
Yahoo went on to invalidate the forged cookies used in the attack and set up a 2-step verification process. Without the one-time security code, the user account is inaccessible. Now you see the importance of the seemingly annoying 2-step verification process?
If you have many social media accounts, it might be a good idea to use dedicated social media management tools to manage them centrally. However, this isn’t enough – here are some direct precautions you can take to ensure your data is not being stolen.
Passwords, use them wisely
The topic of passwords is a big one.
Smartphones, tablets, and laptops around the world get stolen every single day. If your device doesn’t require a password for someone to log in, the thief has access to all your data.
It doesn’t end there. A lot of us are fond of using the same password for everything. After all, it’s easy to remember, right? Break that habit as soon as possible.
This is because once the thieves figure out the password to one of your accounts, all your accounts are compromised. If you have trouble remembering multiple passwords, you can use a password management app.
Also, use passwords that are impossible for your friends and family to guess. So that means no birthdays, anniversaries, names of pets, or any other identifying information. When making passwords, use a combination of lower and upper-case letters, symbols, and numbers. Chance them periodically too.
Also, don’t use accurate answers for password recovery questions, for example, your surname, for obvious reasons. Finally, before entering any of your financial information or login details on any website, be sure to check if it is secure. The website’s URL should start with HTTPS – the S stands for secure.
Keep an eye on app permissions
When you first open an app you have downloaded, it usually asks for permissions to access some features or information in your phone for certain functions to work.
For example, a camera app may ask for permissions to access the camera, microphone, storage, and location.
When granting permissions, be cautious and ask yourself if that app really needs access to some information. For example, the said camera app doesn’t need access to your contacts to function correctly.
Be careful when granting an app location permission. While the app can determine good shopping and eating spots based on your location, it wouldn’t be so nice if a malicious third-party has access to such information.
You could fall victim to an opportunistic robbery or fall prey to a future phishing attack.
App permissions can be restricted via settings, so you can always counter check.
Use free Wi-Fi cautiously
A little online shopping while passing time in a coffee shop or while waiting at the airport has never hurt anybody, or has it? Most free public Wi-Fi networks have very few security measures to protect your data if any at all. It means that the same network offering you free Wi-Fi could be the same one accessing your online activity.
With the technical know-how and the right tools, a person on the same Wi-Fi network could be snooping on you. It could be a data thief or a hacker out to steal your information.
If you must complete an online transaction on public Wi-Fi, be sure to use a virtual private network to mask your online activity from crooks by encrypting your browsing.
There is a lot of free VPN software out there but be sure to use legitimate, pay-to-use software for your good.
Ideally, only connect to public Wi-Fi with a known and trusted service set identifier.
A Wi-Fi hotspot aggregator will also keep you safe but for the safest browsing when you’re out and about, make use of 4G LTE. You won’t have to connect to Wi-Fi in the first place.
Beware of Email attacks and impersonators
You have probably heard a story about someone who got cheated into sharing personal information with an unknown person via phone call.
To avoid being a victim yourself, never give out confidential information on the phone, via email, or on the internet without being certain that you know the person you are talking to.
If you receive an email from a company claiming to have an account with you asking for private information such as your password, don’t share anything.
Instead, look up the company’s details online and call them or get in touch with customer service. An easy way to identify such scammers is to check if email addresses don’t seem right and have spelling errors.
Cybercriminals are smart and sneaky. Another of their tactics is the use of Email attacks. These could be malware, adware, spyware, phishing, etc.
Scammers send emails containing malicious links and trick people to click on the links. Clicking the link could make you a victim of spyware that reveals your personal information or a ransomware attack on your computer.
To stay safe from Email attacks, be extra careful when reading emails that contain external links. Also, refrain from sharing your personal information with anyone.
Backup your data and dispose of devices correctly
Backing up data refers to the copying of your physical and virtual files or databases to a secondary location for data preservation. It is for in case your equipment fails or you fall victim to a cyber-attack. So, how does this work?
Nowadays, the threat of ransomware attacks is ever-present. A ransomware attack is a cyberattack in which a hacker encrypts your data and holds it hostage, asking you to pay a certain amount of money for the decryption of your data.
A simple way to keep your data safe is by regularly backing up your data. Make it a practice to do so twice a month. Should you suffer from a major data loss or a ransomware attack, you will be able to successfully revert data to its previous state when you last backed up.
If you are storing important information, backing up your computer isn’t enough. Back-up the information to an external drive, another machine, or a different location.
Remember that simply deleting information from your device won’t completely remove it from the device. Make sure you format the drives and perform a factory reset on them to make sure the person who ends up with your device has no access to any of your data.
Update your security regularly
Having a firewall, anti-virus software, and anti-spyware software is of no use if they are outdated.
Many of us are guilty of ignoring system and software updates. For some, it feels like a waste of time or just a bother. But did you know that an outdated system makes you an easy target for hackers?
Software companies are aware of the latest tactics and tools that hackers are using. That is why they release security updates and patches regularly to keep you safe. Make sure that you are always running on the latest system update. You should also have the newest versions of all the software you use.
It does not apply to your computer only. Your smartphone and tablet should always be up-to-date. If all this seems like a hassle, turn on automatic-updates and forget about it.
Be wary however as malware can sometimes masquerade as anti virus software so be sure to read reviews online and verify that other people have used them successfully. Check out reviews on Trustpilot to double check.
Protecting your online and social media privacy
Protecting personal data and information on our mobile phones and our computers is extremely important. Hackers and identity thieves are working round the clock, devising new ways to get hold of our precious data. Invest in good security software and familiarize your family with the threats out there.
Even the largest companies who have the most secure protocols and checks to prevent data breaches can fall victim as we have seen. So it is important that you do your best to also protect yourself and not rely solely on these platforms.
We hope that you now have a deeper understanding of online security and social media privacy. It is never too late to start protecting yourself and your loved ones. Remember that even the smallest details might be all an identity thief needs.
By sharing these tips, more of us stay protected. That means fewer people for the attackers to target.
Read more on how to avoid social media scams.