In the face of the increasing number and frequency of data breaches, online privacy is an issue that every Internet user today should be concerned about. Take for example the recent Equifax data breach which announced the leaking of data from 143 million US consumers, or closer to the region where large scale data compromises in Philippines, Malaysia and India affected millions of users. Yet with such damaging breaches, users still do not do enough to prioritize their online privacy.
The technicalities behind terms and conditions and the constant need for users to upgrade their security software are big hurdles. How then can we keep up with ensuring our online data is safeguarded? Here are eight quick tips from, Rajnesh Singh, Regional Bureau Director for Asia-Pacific, Internet Society.
- Learn how to “shop smart” for connected devices. You don’t want to have to return a connected device because it is spying on you. Returning things is a pain. Learn how to “shop smart,” and buy privacy respecting connected devices so you won’t have to.
- Update your devices and its applications. If a device or app has an auto-update feature, turn it on! Chances that you are going to take time to update it later are low. Often this is as easy as a couple clicks. Additionally, do not forget to update the less obvious devices. Anything that’s Internet connected, from your light bulbs to your thermostat, should be updated.
- Turn on strong encryption. Some devices and services have the capability to use encryption, but don’t turn on encryption by default. This is like owning a safe, but leaving it unlocked. Take a few minutes to see if your devices or services are already using encryption or if you need to turn it on.
- Review the permissions on your mobile device. No flashlight app ever needs to track your location or your calendar. So, don’t let them! Review your permissions settings and turn off the permissions for apps that gather more data than you’d like. It only takes a few minutes.
- Review the privacy settings on your social media and store accounts. You may be sharing a lot more than you intended through your social media and store accounts. Review your privacy settings to determine who can see what you write, the pictures you post, or your other activity on the platform. Ask yourself, who do I want to see this sort of information, and who do I not want to see it. When possible, avoid linking your social media accounts with other third party services. Your social media platform does not need to know what music you listen to, so don’t tie your music streaming service to your social media account!
- Boost the privacy protections on your favorite browser. There are lots of great browser extensions or plug-ins that can increase your privacy when browsing the web. One browser plugin, HTTPS Everywhere, will ensure that if a website offers an encrypted SSL connection, it will use it. Others, like Ghostery and Privacy Badger, will block tracking cookies or web beacons that companies use to track your browsing habits. Getting privacy protecting browser plugins is a quick and easy way to better privacy.
- Stop reusing passwords. It is tempting to reuse a password for multiple devices or services. But, while reusing a password may be easier for you to remember, if hacked or stolen, it also makes it easier for criminals to gain access to your other devices or services. Take a few minutes to get a secure password manager and learn how to use it, or, for home devices, write down your passwords in a securely stored notebook.
- Turn on two factor authentication (2FA) for your applications and services. When you think of 2FA, think of something you know (e.g. password) and something you have (e.g a security token). 2FA means if someone only has your username and password they can’t login as you. This is crucial because companies lose databases of their users passwords all the time. The Two Factor Auth site will walk you through how to set it up for almost every website that supports it.