As we enter into cybersecurity month it makes me think a lot about my own privacy, and how elusive it has become in the 21st century. It seems that everything we do is now tracked; whenever we visit a web page, call someone on our smart phone, visit the doctor, change the temperature on our smart thermostat or simple talk about a specific subject in our own household, our actions get recorded as data – in theory to make our lives better and more productive. However, in an age when digital privacy is practically an oxymoron, what can people do to protect their privacy?
Keep Digital Privacy at the Front of Your Mind
Well, the first step in protecting your data is to think carefully about digital privacy. We have introduced so much technology into our lives we must start to be mindful about privacy and security and not take it for granted. We must start to ask ourselves certain questions in order to proactively protect our privacy such as the following:
- What information or data do you want to protect?
- Who do you want to protect it from?
- How likely is it that you’ll need to protect it?
- What will happen if you fail to protect it?
- How much effort are you willing to put in to protect your personal information?
- What presents risks to your ability to do so?
- Are there tools/ technology to help you protect your information?
Once you’ve answered these questions you’ll be able to determine the most important strategies to protect your data – and compromises you might need to make in your every day lifestyle.
Here are some of the most important items to think about when considering the protection of your digital privacy:
1. Focus on Passwords
Passwords are absolutely foundational to digital privacy. Unfortunately, they can also be overwhelming, leading many to use the same password over and over again.
Passwords should be long, nonsensical, use numbers, symbols and upper case and lower-case letters. And best practice is that they should never be used for more than one account. Password managers like 1Password or LastPass can help with generating secure passwords for different accounts and storing them in a secure place for easy access. I also like to change mine at least every quarter at a minimum.
Passwords should be used in conjunction with two-factor identification, which requires an additional level of proof of ID before granting access. This could be via a code sent to a phone or a fob or a biometric marker like a finger print or facial recognition. Highly recommended to thwart off bad actors.
2. Update your Devices
Keeping your software updated is critical when it comes to digital privacy. Updates frequently address security vulnerabilities, keeping devices safe. However, make sure to check your digital privacy settings afterwards to make sure the updates didn’t adjust any settings.
3. Know Your Settings
For any software you or technology you utilize, always review and understand your settings for security and privacy. Especially, when you download a new app to a mobile device it often asks for permissions—access to your microphone, to your camera, to your photo roll, your location…the question is: why? In these cases, caution is best. If it doesn’t seem like an app needs that information to function, then don’t grant it —you can always change your mind later if it affects the app’s functionality. Also, remember to close apps that are not in use.
4. Understand How Certain Devices Work
New technology is released everyday designed to improve consumer lifestyles. Personal assistants, self-driving cars and more – however, how do they work and what information do they gather and share? How does a discussion in your kitchen about how old your dog has gotten turn into Facebook ads on arthritis meds for dogs being delivered to you almost immediately? You should consider when convenience is outweighed by privacy and the impact to technology management in the home and our new “smart” lives.
5. Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi
Connecting to public Wi-Fi can expose your information—even information thought to be encrypted. Although sometimes difficult, avoid connecting to public wi-fi as much as possible. If you must connect – do not access any personal information such as banking or social security numbers, use a VPN, and turn off sharing.
6. Encrypt, Encrypt, Encrypt
Not using encryption is like shouting a private conversation in a crowded room. Encryption provides protection by scrambling messages in transit so that only the sender and receiver can access the information.
Make sure the sites you visit are encrypted—look for web addresses starting with https:// or the closed padlock in your web browser. If the site is not encrypted, don’t log into it—the information you share is not safe.
7. Secure Communication
When it comes to communication and digital privacy, encryption is especially important. Make sure you use secure applications for texting, voice calls, and video calls—like secure messaging platforms. This is really the only safe/ secure way to share information such as health information, social security numbers, credit card information with business colleagues/professionals/ clients or even password information or garage pass codes with family members.
Vaporstream strongly believes in the importance of accessible tools and strategies so that everyone can focus on digital privacy. To learn more about Vaporstream’s secure communication platform and how it protects your privacy read our Case Study: Security and Compliance Assurance for Mobile Messaging in Regulated Industries.
Contributor: Kristi Perdue Hinkle