Companies from Facebook to Equifax rocked headlines after compromising customer data. As a consumer, here's what you can do to minimize your risk.
Some businesses continue to struggle with ingraining digital into their company’s DNA, while others are easily implementing digital policies and procedures.But as companies continue to figure out how to properly and efficiently run business in our digital world, things like data hacks, leaks, and scandals will continue to take place.
So, how can we protect ourselves as consumers as the business world continues to struggle with how to manage digital best practices?
Well, until there is technology that can ensure the safety of our information, or until we have legislation in place that protects our data, we, unfortunately, often need to take matters into our own hands.
Here are a few measures you can take to protect your personal information and yourself:
1. Reconsider what you give away
One of the best ways to safeguard your personal data is to put less information online. This goes beyond sharing on social media–have you recently given your telephone number to a retail store associate? Or wrote your email address on a sign-up sheet at a local yoga studio? If so, then you just might start getting phone calls or emails from unknown solicitors.
A good rule of thumb is to only give away the information that is absolutely necessary.
On a similar note, when it comes to social media, consider what would happen if your information ended up in the wrong hands before posting, sharing, or liking anything. Would you be okay with your boss seeing the results of a random Facebook quiz you took? If not, then it’s best to opt out of the quiz.
2. Use password managers
Do you use passwords that have commonly used words in them? Do you use the same password for multiple accounts? Do you keep the same password for years? If so, then your account is not as secure as you may think. To improve the security of your online accounts you must:
Change passwords frequently
Use passwords that are a mix of random upper and lowercase letters with special characters and numbers
Make sure your passwords are different for every account
If this sounds difficult to keep track of, don’t worry. Password managers are designed to help you keep track of your accounts without having to remember every random password you’ve created. To be even more thorough,you can ensure the security of your password manager account with two-factor authentication.
3. Try two-factor authentication
In combination with the password manager above, two-factor authentication requires additional verification–aside from the username and password–to access an account. This could be a special code number sent as a text message to the phone number associated with your account or a two-factor authentication product, like a Yubikey or RSA token.
4. Get encrypted
If you’re storing data on any server or cloud (keep in mind this includes storage services like Google Drive or Apple Photos), make sure you can encrypt the information you’re storing. This way, if the servers or accounts are compromised, then the data will still be difficult to access.
5. Read the privacy policies
Do you read all the fine print in the terms and conditions before hitting “I Accept”? Most of us don’t, but if you want to safeguard yourself against shady data share policies, then reading that fine print is a must. Of course, the result of this is not signing up for the whatever product or service you want to use. But if more people declined to accept because they disagreed with certain terms or conditions, then many companies would be forced to change their policies.
6. Monitor your credit
Many sites like Credit Karma will allow you to keep an eye on your credit without pulling an actual report (which can negatively impact your score). In fact, many banks will offer this as a free service through your account or in the app.
So, make it a practice to check in on your credit often. This way, if someone tries to use your information to make a big purchase, you’ll know about it right away and can stop that train from going completely off the rails.
Our digital world is continuing to evolve, and hopefully emerging technologies and data privacy policies will continue to adapt to make things safer for consumers in the future. But for now, it can be a dangerous online world to live in for anyone who wants to keep their information private. Until technology becomes more secure or stricter legislation is passed, our best bet is to be proactive in the measures we can personally take to protect our own privacy.