Every time you use a device, you enter, modify or access data. Some of your usages are routine and public but sometimes you perform tasks that are confidential in your personal life or business. Naturally, this type of data is private and it should be kept that way. This is why you should protect your data one as if it is one of your most precious commodities.
However, companies that offer applications and software for our day-to-day usage have struggled to keep user data secure. Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Target, Adobe, and Twitter — companies regardless of their size have had their IT security breached in recent years. This puts the onus on you, the user, to protect your personal data. You should make extra efforts to hide your personally identifiable information (PII). This goes far beyond name, age, gender, or location—data gathered from social communications, non-approved devices, and financial documents can be used to reverse engineer profiles or to execute brute force attacks.
The most obvious solution is often the most overlooked one. Simply updating your software whenever a security patch becomes available can help in data privacy. Hackers look to find new loopholes to compromise a program and old software builds are more susceptible to their attacks. Software companies unearth new security flaws all the time and they push updates to patch the flaws. The update notifications may look annoying after a while, but you cannot ignore them. Given the rise in zero-day exploits, keeping the software up-to-date is an IT security best practice.
Disable lock screen notifications
Another critical security feature that often flies under the radar. Notifications on the lock screen sure help us stay in the loop but from the point of view of data privacy, these notifications can expose critical information to malicious agents around you. Snooping and eavesdropping in cafes or public transport often lead to security breaches because our lock screen contains all kinds of notifications—from sensitive social media updates and calling alerts to bank notifications.
Today’s hackers need only snippets of information to piece everything together before launching a full-blown attack. To stay on the safe side, disable lock screen notifications altogether. This will not only help you protect personal information but also stay focused for longer.
Get a password manager
Even though our usage varies across platforms we can all agree that we have too many passwords to remember these days. Given that passwords are often the only thing stopping hackers from exploiting your data, it’s important to keep them secure. Manually creating and managing passwords is a hassle because:
- They’re often weak and unoriginal. Hackers today can decipher 8-character alphanumeric passwords in seconds.
- They frequently slip out of the mind.
A good password manager can address both issues. Apps like LastPass, Dashlane, 1Password, and Keeper help you create strong, complex, and unique passwords in seconds and store them in encrypted vaults. All you have to remember is one, master password to automate sign-ins in different websites and apps. Password managers also help you follow best practices and alert you if old passwords have been compromised.
Use VPN, stay off public networks.
Public WiFi sounds like a good thing to have. After all, who doesn’t love free internet? But public networks also come with significant data privacy risks. Hackers target poorly guarded public networks to attack all the devices that use the same network. Once they compromise the network, they can surveil the traffic and steal data packets containing key information of users.
We recommend you avoid public networks and use virtual private networks (VPNs) instead. VPNs encrypt the traffic and protect the user’s privacy. VPN providers such as NordVPN, Perimeter 81, ExpressVPN, and TunnelBear not only anonymize data but also prevent pesky ads from injecting malware into your device.
Disable third-party tracking in a browser
Every time you visit a website on your phone, laptop, or desktop, your browser, the website, and its partners track your data. This includes how you interact with the pages, duration, the ads you click, and the time and location. In some cases, the data collection can be so pervasive that you will be served scary accurate content or offers. Even though the digital replicas of consumers are marketed as personalized recommendations, they are built by tracking a user’s personal activity and sensitive information across the internet.
The first thing you need to do is disable third-party cookies that track you. Be it Google Chrome, Safari, or Microsoft Edge—every browser has options in settings that discourage trackers from invading your privacy. Use privacy-focused browsers such as Brave or Firefox and install extensions such as Adblock Plus, AdGuard, uBlock Origin, Ghostery, DuckDuckGo, Blur, HTTPS Everywhere, and Unshorten.link.
At the least, try clearing your history and cookies every few weeks and use a VPN whenever you can.
Backup strategies and encrypted cloud storage
Locally stored data can be easily exploited if the device is stolen. It’s important to store sensitive data in the cloud and have some sort of remote control access to your devices. Google has a Find My Device app that allows you to remotely locate a device and wipe its content in case of theft.
If your device is indeed stolen, you’d rather want to wipe your device data than hand it over to criminals. But this also means you’ll lose every bit of important information. If you have a solid cloud backup strategy, you can mitigate data loss. Cloud backups also allow businesses to migrate to different devices and access data from different locations.
IT partner to ensure data protection compliance
IT security risks have evolved so much that a business cannot address them on their own. IT experts can act as security consultants and partners to mitigate security flaws and help you achieve KPIs. This is particularly important if you’re operating in a heavily regulated industry where data protection laws are strong. An IT partner can help you stay compliant and abide by best security practices to protect your business.
MyTek: Your IT security friend
Consumers and businesses cannot take data privacy lightly today. Cyberattacks are more clever and far more damaging than they were a few years ago. As managed IT security providers, we help customers not only get their basic security protocols right but also scale their infrastructure to meet the security needs of the future. Get in touch with us today to know how we’re helping people protect their online privacy.