For decades most people have considered “big data” a corporate issue. Sure, things like phone numbers and email addresses are commonly stored in databases and sold to marketers, but beyond that and the (thankfully) rare banking blunder or hacking incident, personal data has largely remained secure over the years. “Big data” just wasn’t something to worry much about … until now.
Truth be told, most people didn’t have many passwords to remember before online banking, smart phones, social media and popular e-commerce sites like Amazon and Overstock emerged. Until quite recently, protecting your personal information was a pretty easy task. After all, most people only had a few phone numbers, keys, a pin, and maybe a handful of logins to remember.
These days, however, it’s a whole new ballgame. There are dozens and dozens of sites available to share, download, and shop … each with its own unique login. Apps have made storing zillions of passwords and account numbers a breeze, and most of us are happy to rely on them to remember everything. They’re convenient, easy to use, and honestly, there are just too many pieces of information to remember everyday!
Here’s the problem: it’s far too easy to simply assume that your personal data is protected. Sure, most companies do a great job of encrypting their databases and keeping up to date with the latest security protocols, but as cloud computing becomes more and more mainstream, that protection isn’t necessarily guaranteed.
It has become more important than ever before to protect your personal information, because there have never been so many ways to access, use, or steal it. However, even with just a few simple steps you can greatly reduce the possibility of fraud and identity theft:
- Look for secure sites when shopping online, and be sure to add “https” to every social media platform you use (it’s usually an optional feature in your user account settings).
- Setup an alternative email address to use exclusively for online subscriptions and purchases. Your personal inbox will stay neat and tidy, and will remain protected in the event the sites you shared this secondary email address with are ever hacked.
- Don’t use debit cards for online transactions – you’re giving hackers direct access to your bank account! It might also be a good idea to limit online purchases to just one credit card. If the site is ever hacked, or your personal information is accessed, you’ll be better able to limit your financial exposure and protect yourself.
- Never, ever use the same password across multiple sites. This is just a terrible idea! Use a unique login for every online account you have.
- Smartphone users should always password protect your device. A misplaced phone without a password is practically an open invitation for thieves to steal your identity, access personal information about your friends and family, and easily gain control of your social media profiles and other accounts.
- The same advice is true for tablet users. Setup a password to login, and make sure to configure the pre-loaded tracking software available on most devices. It will give you the peace of mind of being able to find your device(s) when misplaced or stolen.
- Install and regularly update security software on your home and office computers. You should always have anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software running along with a properly configured firewall.
- And finally, avoid phishing emails. If you don’t recognize the source, don’t respond! And certainly don’t click on any links, open any files, or download programs sent by strangers.
These are just a few tips and tricks to help you protect your personal information, but online safety and security is constantly improving. Even in just the past few weeks, we’ve begun to see software companies implement new features like two-step authentication and fingerprint scanners. Our best advice is to thoroughly research the available options, and make the best choices you can to protect yourself and your information. The internet is a great place – let’s work together to keep it safe!
*Image courtesy of Shutterstock