Choose Privacy Week, May 1-7, 2014, is a time to advocate for privacy rights and to examine how we can protect ourselves against threats to these rights.
Previously, we discussed the threats to our personal privacy while using the internet and social networks. Today, on our fourth day of Choose Privacy Week, we would like to encourage you to protect your privacy online using the following tips.
1: Look for the Lock!
When sending sensitive data, make certain to look for a small padlock at the bottom of your browser window to ensure you are sending via a secure (SSL) connection. The lock symbol in your browser’s Status Bar and “https” in the Address Bar show that you’ve got a secure connection. Look for it any time you’re about to engage in a financial transaction. The lock isn’t a guarantee of security, but its absence is a guarantee of NO security.
2: Sniff out Phish
If you receive an email from your bank or another institution you deal with asking for information, verify it first before proceeding. Legitimate businesses rarely ask for personal information via email. As well, phishing emails can contain links that could lead you to fake web pages. It is better to log directly onto your bank’s website or contact the institution yourself to ensure you are not being had.
3: Create strong passwords and update them frequently
Your password should be a combination of letters and numbers, but don’t stop at the bare minimum. Use uppercase letters in random spots. Substitute numbers for letters. Mash multiple word phrases together. Deliberately misspell those words. Space them out, and don’t use the same password in more than one place.
4: Use a secret email address
Publicly available information is the first way a hacker can get his foot in the door. Few things are tossed around more casually than an email address. Don’t give potential hackers a starting point, especially if you use the same login info across multiple sites (which you shouldn’t be doing in the first place, read about how one man had to piece his life back together after being hacked here.). Instead, create an email address that as few people know about as possible that you use only for account log-ins.
Set up a secondary email account for shopping and mailing list activities. Keep this separate from online financial and business activities, so if required, the email address can be changed without disrupting important communications. Also be sure to delete any emails that include passwords whenever you register a new account or change login info on a service.
5: Don’t link your accounts
Yes, linking your Twitter to your Facebook to your Klout to your Hotmail to you Netflix and back to your Twitter makes things wonderfully convenient. But when one service gets hacked and has a bunch of linked services, you’ve just opened the flood gates.
This isn’t preventative, but it’s crucial for damage control
6: Be conscious on what you display and post on Facebook
Check your network settings. If your profile also states your birth date, home town, address and phone number, along with a reference to your current and past employers, you’ve left yourself wide open to someone becoming the new you.
Also, use common sense and don’t share too much. For instance, don’t tell everyone you are going out of town, and don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want your current or a future employer to see, or your mother for that matter!
7: Don’t answer security questions with obvious answers
Online businesses everywhere have embraced the technique, which is called knowledge-based authentication. Theoretically, the answers to these questions are so personal and obscure that knowing them proves you are you. Experts say, however, that the technology could end up helping hackers compromise your online accounts more easily and essentially stealing your identity.
Instead provide secret questions with the answers absolutely not related to it. For example, for the question “What town were you born in?” you can simply register something like qT7_pp$B rather than Springfield, IL
8. Manage your cookies responsibly
Cookie profiling is the use of permanent cookies to track an internet user’s activity online by marketers. They then “profile” users to target them with specific products.
Different browsers offer different ways to manage the cookies on your computer. You can easily remove any cookies that have been created in the cookie folder of your browser.
Should I block all cookies? Not necessarily. Blocking all cookies can help protect your privacy, but it might limit your experience on some websites. Be selective about which websites you allow cookies for. You can start by blocking all cookies, and then allow cookies as needed for websites that you trust. Visit http://www.aboutcookies.org for more information.
9: Put passwords on your devices
Even if you’re not prone to losing your phone or laptop, it’s good to keep a password or PIN on them since you probably use desktop clients and have websites that you’re perpetually logged into from your mobile device.
You get drunk and lose stuff. Things get stolen. Don’t make it easy for whoever ends up with your gear!
10: Monitor your credit cards and bank statements carefully
Take a few minutes to review your bank and credit card statements each month. If there are strange charges, you should take the time to check them out. Often criminals will try a $1 or similar small charge first to make sure the number works before trying a larger purchase. You should look for this pattern. Credit card companies have programs to deal with fraudulent usage but you have to notice it first. Also, you can ask for one free credit report each year. This can help you find out if someone has opened accounts in your name. If you feel your card information was stolen, consider canceling your linked card. Be persistent with watching your accounts; it may be months or even a year before thieves actually use your card.
11: Think twice before enrolling in website services and share responsibly
How will your information be used? Is it safe? Do you really want anyone to know what you’re buying?
Could the information you are sharing inform others about your health or other very personal aspects of your life?
12: Pay for embarrassing items in cash
Yeah! Just like in the movies!
13: Protect your social security and phone numbers
Don’t just give out your social security number to anyone who asks for it. When paying for an item at the check-out you don’t have to give your phone number to the sales clerk. You wouldn’t give your number to the creepy guy at the bar, so why should this be any different?
14: Put a Google Alert on your name
Go to http://www.google.com/alerts to find out more. It’s an easy way to find out what is being said about you on the internet.
15: Always Sign Out
Remember to always “Sign Out” of services you are using when you are finished. This is especially applicable when using the computers at Brookens Library!