This post brought to you by Choosi
How safe is your personal data in the digital world? In an era of online shopping, social media sharing and frequent internet browsing, it is a question that is vitally important to us. Research recently conducted by Choosi and CoreData found that 85.8% of Australians surveyed were concerned about online security and privacy. However, the number of people taking action to maintain their digital privacy was surprisingly low. Only just over half of respondents said they are always careful about posting personal information online that might be used for identity fraud, and a mere 22% always change their internet passwords.
These statistics are alarming, but are perhaps a reflection of how complex the issue of online security has become. It’s just so hard to keep on top of the latest threats and what we should be doing to protect ourselves against them. In the interest of making things easier, here are 7 simple online hacks to maintain your digital security.
1. Be careful what you post
Nowadays, many of us choose to broadcast our lives across social media. We share our day to day movements, photos of our kids, and have the occasional vent. However, there are certain bits of information that we should never post online, because they can be used for identity fraud. These include our personal or work address, phone number, personal email (which is often used to access online accounts), financial information (including the name of banks at which your money is held), passwords and credit card details.
Further, you need to think carefully about details in the photos you share. A photo of your child in school uniform can reveal where they will be at school pickup time; a shot of you proudly standing in front of the ‘sold’ sign of the house you just bought may reveal your new residential address.
2. Review your Facebook privacy settings
Have you ever clicked on the profile of a person you don’t know on Facebook, and been surprised just how many posts and photos you can access? If you share a lot of your life on Facebook, you need to check your privacy settings. Make sure only friends and family can see your ‘about’ information and photos, and don’t provide your phone number, email or home address in the about section or within any posts. Find out more about Facebook privacy here. And remember, if you access Facebook on a public computer, always log out at the end of the session.
3. Don’t inadvertently reveal your home office address
Be careful when you list your home-based business online, as your address can generate a pin on Google Maps. Where possible, use a PO Box, your accountant’s office or generalised address like ‘Main St, Hawthorn’, and look for checkboxes that allow you to keep your address private. Also watch out for this information being automatically added to the bottom of your email newsletters by email services such as Mailchimp.
4. Purchase quality security software
According to the research conducted by Choosi and CoreData, only 46% of respondents always purchase and update their anti-virus software. If you are browsing the internet, you absolutely need to do this. In addition to virus protection, the software should also provide a firewall against outside networks trying to gain access to your computer. It also needs to identify phishing sites, which pretend to be bank sites, auction or online game sites, and that collect your username and password.
5. Use secure passwords and change them frequently
The most secure passwords use a series of letters, numbers, capitalisations and punctuation – for example: Chrystal_clear#22. Don’t choose a phrase relating to something important to you that can be guessed (such as a birthday or pet’s name), and of course, don’t use the same password across accounts, and don’t write them down. Now, that’s the official line. In reality, it’s impossible to remember all our different secure passwords when we need one for every online transaction and social media account. So, use password management software to store your passwords for you – you only then need to remember the ‘master’ password to access all others. Are password managers safe, I hear you ask? Apparently so.
6. Delete your browsing history
Almost every time you visit a site, you download a small data file called a ‘cookie’ from that site, which tracks your internet usage. While this can be handy for you – your computer will remember where you’ve been and what you want to see – it can also be used by government or intelligence agencies to track your browsing and collect information about you. If that thought bothers you, then make a habit of deleting cookies and temporary internet files from your browser. And even if you don’t mind Big Brother watching you, at least delete your browser history whenever you use a public computer. A tool such as CCleaner will do the job for you, or you can manually delete cookies directly from your web browser).
7. The super sneaky stuff
Okay, that’s all the easy hacks sorted. There is still a lot more you can do to protect your digital privacy – such as using an internet browser that blocks cookies, or an email service provider that encrypts your data. It requires a little more reading to understand, and may be a step further than you are prepared to go (it’s a little like going off-piste in the ski fields). But here is an excellent article to explain the options and point you in the right direction if you want to go there.