Data Safety: 8 Tips for Digital Life

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Data Privacy Day represents an international effort to empower individuals and businesses to respect privacy, safeguard data and enable trust.

While the internet is a useful and diverse tool, there are some dangers that could potentially threaten users. Classic examples include viruses and hackers however, there are other aspects of the internet to focus on in respects to data privacy (for both you personally and your potential clients or employees). Below find eight seemingly simple, yet often neglected, tips for data safety while using the internet.

1. Configure Wireless Networks

Your internet security starts with you, this includes your infrastructure! Therefore, it is important to ensure that yourself, your family, your business and your clients are all protected against third-party access. Today, wireless internet surfing is an aspect of our everyday lives and you likely use several internet routers daily (whether these be at work or home). When you purchase a router or receive one from your provider, passwords and other settings are standardized. This is detrimental to data safety. Be sure to change all passwords for wireless LAN, router access, router name, and SSID.

2. Use Current Software and Operating System

An additional aspect of your infrastructure also includes the system you operate on. This aspect of data security is often viewed as self-serve, which is only partially true. Regular updates of your operating system ensure hackers and malware do not exploit any potential system vulnerabilities. If support for a system is lost, it is ideal to switch to a newer version. Old operating systems are often no longer supplied with adequate security updates, therefore posing a real danger for both users and their data. The same is true for other software like our smartphones (something more relatable), it is important to keep software up to date and we may notice as things get outdated there is a delay and change in system effectiveness. There is a widespread misconception that software updates bring the initial problem, while this is possible it is not nearly as common as one may think. Additionally, if the update is faulty, software developers are typically very quick to update these designs.

3. Use Secure Passwords

On the internet, almost every individual uses at least one service which requires a password; email accounts, social media, and cloud accounts to name a few. Take a minute to think about how many accounts you have that require a password, or how many passwords you have in general – ok now take a breath and listen to this. As important as passwords are, unfortunately, many passwords are weak and easy to guess, however, we still use them whether it be for our own convenience or because it is assumed ‘nobody cares about my data anyway.’ This is a fatal misconception. For this reason, among others, it is crucial to use passwords that present a hurdle such as a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, special characters, and are of a certain length. Furthermore, it is also recommended not to use the same password(s) for each service, for keeping track of multiple passwords try using a secure excel sheet or investigate using password storing websites such as LastPass.

4. Stay Away from the ‘Admin Account’

Operating systems allow you to create different user accounts with different right levels. Frequently, there is one user account that can do everything (software updates and installations), but this account is not ideal for everyday use. It is important to log in for daily work and internet research as a normal user. The reason being that many potentially harmful viruses, these viruses must have access to the core system of the computer in order to function. If the active user captures any malware but does not have the required rights, it will limit the detrimental effects.

5. Surf only Secure Websites

Well-known sites such as Facebook or Gmail support the encryption standard HTTPS. If you work in an industry where a password is required for handling sensitive data, HTTPS is an indispensable tool. For data safety it is recommended to install the browser extension HTTPS everywhere, which forces websites you visit to transmit all data in an encrypted format. This downloadable extension is free and available for both Firefox and Chrome browsers when looking at the menu bar of your web browser you can see which websites are in HTTPS format.

6. Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Many internet service providers or other web services already offer two-factor authentication, this secures your respective user account with an additional layer of security. Think about when banks do e-banking, typically they will generate and send a random code to a trusted device, this code is different and uniquely generated each time you log-on. That little PIN will help to double protect you, in case someone gets ahold of your password.

7. DO NOT Scatter Data Freely on the Net

While this is seemingly obvious, make sure that any exchange of personal data (such as addresses, e-mail, telephone numbers, etc.) is done over a secure environment (refer to tip 5 – keyword HTTPS). Old HTML and websites alike are not a place to leave personal information like an email address or phone number. Leave your data only where it is unavoidable and the source is secure: e.g.: flight bookings, online shopping or reputable ports.

8. Beware of Email Attachments

This is one that even the experts have fallen victim to, emails from seemingly legitimate senders, with serious concerns and contaminated attachments that may harm your network, even deleting or encrypting data. As with technology, these emails have gotten more advanced and difficult to detect for the untrained or unexpecting receiver. Phishing emails are no longer permeated with bad grammar, and messages can be customized to your organization and even specific job position. If you receive a questionable email, think carefully: Do I expect something like this? Is it plausible that I receive this expected email? If in doubt, do not open as this could potentially harm your network but rather call the sender by phone.

Data security is a crucial aspect of everyday life and business. It is important to take the appropriate steps to safeguard yourself and your organization from the potential dangers that loom in the shadows of today’s technology. Following these steps will give you a strong start on the road to data security.