In our previous blogs, we’ve mentioned that we are faced with a digital revolution in all aspects of our lives. We now need to adapt and work within a digital environment, we are creating online resumes and uploading them to online platforms, we even have social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram that we use to communicate with our family and friends. While the internet opens up new opportunities for us, it also makes our privacy more vulnerable as our personal details and life events are shared in an online environment, which means that we can be at risk of having our information stolen.
In this blog, we will give you some tips on what personal information you should safeguard and what steps you can take to protect yourself as much as possible.
Information to safeguard
- Full name
- Phone number
Often, when we go to a store or shop online, the business will ask if we want a membership card to be eligible for their promotions and discounts. To do this, you usually need to provide your full name, phone number and email address. Before signing up, make sure you read and understand their terms and conditions, especially those relating to the use of personal information.
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Mother’s maiden name
The more details you provide, the more care you need to take with where your information is going and how it’s being used.
- Bank account numbers
- Social security number
- Pin numbers
- Credit card numbers
As we move down this list, you can see that your vulnerability increases with the more specific information you provide. If an unintended person gets access to these details, they could feasibly use them to do something like apply for a loan in your name, or make an expensive purchase from your account.
- Places of employment
- Medical records
- Employment history
- Residential history
- Children’s names
- Children’s school
- Anniversary dates
If a criminal was to have access to this info, you could be at risk of identity theft, as they can easily pass security check questions via phone or online.
Now, this may all sound a bit scary, but we want to emphasise the importance of keeping your data safe.
Ways to protect your online assets
We all take measures to protect ourselves and our assets in our daily life. We lock our doors and keep hold of our wallets, lock up important documents, etc. Now we need to take the same care on our devices and protect our personal assets when sharing our information online
1. Create strong passwords and pins
Using strong passwords is the first step to protecting your information online. Avoid the same password for every account you have, avoid easy to crack passwords, e.g. children’s names, pet name etc. Include numbers and symbols, and make it as difficult as possible for someone to figure it out. Don’t share your passwords with others.
You can also use two-factor authentication to be more secure. For example, your username and password you use to log in to an account are regarded as one factor, then you can add second factor such as one-time code sent to your mobile phone. So, if someone did hack your password, you would know someone is trying to access your account, as you will receive a code, but they won’t be able to log on without that code.
2. Be especially careful when you are shopping online or banking
Make sure that the browser is secured as you send your details over the Internet. To do this look for the ‘lock’ icon on your browser status bar to make sure that your information is protected.
You should also use quality security software, such as Norton, on all of your devices and update them regularly to keep your computer up-to-date.
When you are shopping online, be careful of websites that you have not visited before or that look suspicious or unprofessional.
After completing your transactions, always make sure to log out of your account. It might be a good idea to use a separate email address for shopping catalogue subscriptions, newsletters or discussions, and one that is used only for your official business communications.
Make sure you do not store your passwords or PIN on your computer.
3. Protecting your information online also means being careful what you share on your social media profiles
Make sure you set your profiles to private, especially if you share where you are and what you’re doing all the time. Every social media platform has a Settings & Privacy option, so take a look at these next time you log in.
4. Wi-Fi is another method by which identity thieves and hackers can steal your information
Free Wi-Fi in public spaces is really convenient, but because so many people use the networks, they are more susceptible to being infected with malicious software that can track online activities, and capture your passwords and personal details. It is advisable that you do not log on to do your banking or any online shopping when you are using free Wi-Fi. In these areas, you should be also mindful that no one is watching your activity – just like you would protect your pin at an ATM, you need to protect the details you enter into your computer or phone.
5. Using mobiles and tablets.
Following on from the previous point, these devices allow you to connect online and do most of the aforementioned tasks from anywhere. However, they are easier to lose; therefore, it is very important that you set up strong passwords and pins so that no one can access your information in the event that you misplace your device.
6. Stay alert to phishing emails
These emails try to trick you into giving out information such as your banking credentials and passwords for other accounts. They can look authentic, but there are ways to identify when these are a scam. Check out Stay Smart Online for more information on these.
You can also subscribe to an alert service by the government that notifies people when there are known scams circulating in their area.
In our next blog, we’ll explore more elements of being digitally savvy, including email etiquette, communicating professionally online, and using social media platforms.