When it comes to your personal data then the number one priority is to keep it safe right? What happens if your data is breached, would you know what to do? A lot of people don’t and that’s okay as not everyone is clued up on these situations but the severity of it is rather high so it either needs dealt with or not to happen in the first place.
A lot of apps have been developed in the UK and around the world to help keep your privacy and they are great but there are many more preventive measures you can take. In this article, I will be telling you how to keep your data safe to avoid a privacy breach.
1. Don’t Give Your Information To Strangers
This one is probably common knowledge, why would you give your information to people you don’t know? You would be surprised at how many people actually do this. An article written by BBC News in 2016 claimed that Identity fraud had gone up by 57% and that statistic alone is pretty terrifying.
On a daily basis, people give out their social security numbers, bank details, names, dates of birth etc so fraudulent scammers without being aware they are doing so or to an online friend they can “trust”.
One of the biggest cases of fraud is the email you may happen to receive from a rich Nigerian prince who is your uncle and recently died, leaving you millions in his will. This scam is one of the most famous because not only do they scam hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars they also steal people’s identity as they need to know bank details, social security numbers etc, all for “safety” reasons.
There is one major rule to follow with this:
If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
There are many ways in which people will try to steal your details so you need to be careful. If someone sends you an email from your bank, someone claiming to send you money etc then ignore it! Your bank will never send you an email asking for details. Also, an email claiming to send you money is one of those too good to be true situations.
Other situations you should be careful of:
- Phone calls – if you are unsure, hang up and call the company to confirm they called you.
- Strangers knocking on your door – If someone claims to be a gas man, electrician, repairman etc and you feel it’s unsafe, ask for ID and call their place of work to confirm they are an employee.
- Any type of email scam – Get xxx here $$$$ cheaper, Nigerian uncle sending money, Companies asking for your details, any email that needs personal data such as social security number etc.
2. Anti-virus and Spyware Tools
Installing an effective anti-virus and spyware program is a must for any PC. A lot of people actually don’t use any tools at all and are unaware that their PC is full of malware, viruses and spyware, in fact, some people don’t even realise why they are dangerous!
There are people out there who on a daily basis set out to conduct criminal activity by sending tiny little bugs into people’s computer and the most common ones are Trojan Horses, Viruses and Worms.
These are created to sneak into a backdoor on your system and infect it and in most cases steal your personal data for personal gain. Trojan Horses are programs that are putting on a false persona, it is something you wanted to download but from the wrong source.
Remember how we talked about email scams? Well imagine you got an email from Microsoft telling you to download the latest software, but in reality, it wasn’t Microsoft at all it was a scammer who made a pretty authentic-looking email with a link to the software.
Well, if you download it the Trojan will act and look exactly like what you want to download but in reality, they contain code that when triggered can cause loss of programs, information and steal personal data.
A virus is simply a small program written to alter the way a computer behaves without the user’s knowledge. Some viruses have been known to format hard drives, data loss, deletion of programs among other rather devastating consequences.
Worms are pretty similar to viruses, the only difference being that they don’t need an infected host file to duplicate.
What happens if all of these combine? You get what is known as a blended threat that can cause a DDOS attack (direct denial of service) on your IP address, release Trojans for activation later, attack your system, inserts malicious code into your software, spreads without human intervention and these are just the basics.
Blended threats are probably one of the worst things that can happen as it can not only devastate your system but your personal life due to the nature of the programs and the intent to steal data.
Just these alone are why you need Anti-virus and Spyware tools, they can and will protect you against dangerous threats and you can pick some of them up for free. Paid ones are of course better but free software is better than nothing.
3. Safe Websites
You wouldn’t think that websites that look harmless contain spyware, would you? Well, sadly you are wrong. There have been websites created for many years now that are solely for the purpose of sending out spyware to steal information.
The best way to be sure of the website’s safety is to check the prefix if it says https:// or has a padlock and “secure” next to it then you are safe to use the website. Be sure to check this in cases of online banking, shopping etc.
4. Data Protection For Mobile
Protecting data on a mobile is very similar to how you would on your PC. Anti-virus and spyware programs are available for mobile so downloading them is a must, also when it comes to apps make sure to check app permissions as there are various apps out there that request permission to sensitive data.
Enabling remote location and device wiping is another great tool to have in your arsenal because if your phone gets lost and stolen not only can you track it, you can completely wipe it so that your data is safe. Always have a backup of your data, this goes without saying because if anything happens then you can easily recover it. iCloud, Google and other similar services offer data backup.
One of the most simple steps, lock your device. Yep, that’s right just simply lock your device! If you leave your phone laying around, having a passcode will keep nosy and prying eyes away.
Commonly referred to as ciphertext, data encryption takes your data and transforms it into a code that can only be accessed with a “key” or password. Encryption is one of the most secure and effective data protection measures.
DigitalGuardian wrote a very detailed article about data encryption and explains it thoroughly.
To put it in short, your “Plaintext” would be taken and ran through a program and series of algorithms which produces secure “ciphertext” and an encryption key or password. Encrypted data can only be shown in its original form once unlocked with the encryption key otherwise, it just doesn’t make any sense.
As an example of plaintext and ciphertext the sentence “I like to go on walks through the countryside” could be encrypted to:
Which clearly makes no sense whatsoever but once the password/key has been entered to return it to plaintext then the sentence “I like to go on walks through the countryside” could be read instead of a bunch of random letters, numbers and characters.
In a technology driven society, there are many ways to protect our data and we should take care of it, as any of our personal and sensitive information could end up in anyone’s hands and who knows what they could do with that data. Whether it is criminal or not, any leaked or stolen data is severe and it is important that we protect it.