Your online privacy matters
Almost 1 million Australians suffer financial loss due to identity theft each year – which makes it more common than robbery, motor vehicle theft, household break-in, or assault.
The internet can be a strange place. We are aware that there are people out there who are actively trying to hack and steal our data, but aside from running some sort of anti-virus software on our computers – we don’t generally give much thought as to how we protect ourselves online.
Being hacked is one thing, but many of us also willingly offer up our personal information just to connect to the public Wi-Fi at the shopping centre or café, or to download the latest app. Handing over our personal data to giant tech companies, governments and even small app developers has quickly become second nature, which can be very profitable in the wrong hands.
How can I protect my data?
Let’s start by looking at what we can do to protect ourselves from people trying to hack our data.
One of the biggest vulnerabilities comes from the passwords we choose for our modems, devices and accounts. A simple password like ‘Security’ can be cracked instantly using computer algorithms, but a passphrase like ‘ITakeSecuritySeriously’ would take up to 45 quintillion years to get past (according to www.howsecureismypassword.net).
Updating existing passwords with easy to remember passphrases (using a combination of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters) may take a bit of time, but is the best way to safeguard your information from the outset.
While we’re on passwords, try to always use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) when it’s available. 2FA works by confirming it is you that’s entering the password by sending a code to another of your devices, or by using biometrics to scan your fingerprint or through Face ID etc.
Securing your devices
It’s good practice to regularly check for any updates for the operating systems, programs and apps you use, on all of your devices. Along with adding new features, updating drivers and delivering bug fixes, they also often contain ‘patches’ for any security flaws that have been discovered since the last update.
If you haven’t already been through the security or privacy settings on your computer, phone or tablet, it’s worth taking a look. Here you can select how much and what kind of information is shared, and with which apps. Things to look for here include location services, camera and microphone permissions, and which apps have access to your contacts, calendars and photos.
You should also review your privacy settings on your social media accounts and web browsers. These are big data collectors for giant tech companies who won’t hesitate to sell your personal information to the highest bidder in order to direct highly targeted advertising towards you based on your online behaviour profile.
Accessing public Wi-Fi networks
Most home and office Wi-Fi networks are encrypted and secure, but free public Wi-Fi networks rarely are. It might seem convenient to connect to the free Wi-Fi at the café or shopping centre, but this can leave your device, personal and potentially financial information exposed to anyone else connected to the same network.
Where possible, it is better to use your mobile data to connect to the internet. If you need to work from a laptop or other device which doesn’t have its own mobile data, you can create a ‘Personal Hotspot’ from your smartphone and share your data with your other devices that way. Otherwise, you’re better off just waiting until can connect to a trusted and secure network later.
If you’re unsure of where to start or have any questions about your online privacy, feel free contact us for help.