10 tips for protecting your data and privacy online
To mark Data Privacy Day 2019 we've put together a series of DOs and DON'Ts for staying safe online and protecting your data and privacy.
How can you safely secure your passwords? What are the risks involved when using a public Wi-Fi connection? And which are the best ways to avoid the evils of a phishing scam? Read on to find out...
1. DON'T keep spam and junk mail
We’re all familiar with spam – those annoying emails that are unsolicited and unwanted and often sent in bulk. Avoid spam by enabling filters on your email account, reporting junk mail as spam and being careful about how visible your email address is online. If an email or social media post looks suspicious, delete it – you really don’t want it hanging around.
2. DO be aware of phishing
Those aforementioned dodgy emails or weird social media messages could be malicious and may be what’s called ‘phishing’, so don’t reply or click any links. Phishing emails are often designed to appear as if sent by a company or bank in an emergency – for instance, telling you your account has be drained of money and asking for private details so that the issue can be resolved. Do not give away important details – such as account numbers, sort codes, pins or passwords – via email or phone. You should contact the company or bank directly, using information provided on an official statement or website, and ask if they have made contact with you regarding that particular issue.
3. DON’T delay your updates
Update notifications from your devices are tempting to ignore, but they’re also incredibly important for maintaining the security of your devices. When your operating system needs to update, let it. The same applies to your web browsers, security software and apps. Keeping things current is the best protection against viruses, malware and other baddies.
4. DO rethink your passwords
Simple passwords just don’t cut it anymore. Cybercriminals are getting smarter all the time and the stronger your password, the less chance they have of accessing your data. Keep passcodes and pins unique. For passwords, try using a memorable sentence (at least 12 characters) instead of a word. You can also secure your devices using additional measures like touch ID or face recognition.
5. DON’T forget to protect all your digital devices
It isn’t just the security of your computer you need to worry about, it’s the security of any device that can connect to the internet. This means securing your smartphone, tablet, game consoles and any other digital devices. Ensure that they’re safe from viruses and malware by taking the same precautions that you would for your computer.
6. DO back up your data
Backing up your data has multiple benefits, not least peace of mind. It always pays to have a copy to fall back on in case:
- your data is stolen and criminals attempt to use it as ransom
- you lose your data or your computer or phone breaks
These backups can be made in various ways, whether you choose a physical solution – such as CDs or an external hard-drive – or a secure online backup service. In reality, it’s probably best to do a combination of both. Your photos may be stored on your desktop computer but you could also add them to a cloud service – like Google Drive or Apple iCloud – and store copies on an external hard-drive. Your physical backups should be kept somewhere secure and safe, such as a locked filing cabinet.
7. DON’T access important accounts using public wireless networks
Thinking of logging into that Wi-Fi hotspot and checking your bank account? Think again. Public networks and hotspots are not considered secure, so limit what you do and save logging into key accounts like email and banking until you can access a password-protected private network (such as your home Wi-Fi).
8. DO be proactive in adjusting your privacy settings
The big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Apple want your data, so you need to be aware of how you control what data you give them and what you don’t. This means exploring the privacy settings of your devices, apps and services and being proactive when it comes to adjusting your settings. The National Cyber Security Alliance has a great guide to adjusting privacy settings for a range of devices and services.
9. DON’T leave passwords lying around
These days we spend so much time online that we have myriad passwords and pins for various different devices, platforms and services. Remembering them all can be an absolute nightmare, so it’s understandable that you’d want to keep note of them – but make sure your list is secure. Instead of leaving a paper list on your desk, store it in a secure place away from your computer. And rather than saving a list on your iCloud, why not use a password management app that can be secured with a pin?
10. DO regularly check activity on your accounts
Sometimes the easiest way to spot if your security has been breached and your data accessed is to simply look at your accounts. Has a large sum of money left your bank account? Are friends or colleagues receiving strange emails from you that you definitely don’t remember sending? If you see suspicious activity on your accounts, be sure to tell the relevant companies immediately and take any extra security measures to lock them down.
Well, that's it - 10 easy ways to protect your data and privacy and stay safe online. If you'd like to know how WDC collects, uses, stores and protects your data please see our data protection section for more details. In the meantime, we wish you a cyber-safe 2019!