This blog post was written by Bruce Snell.
At McAfee, we are happy to be part of Data Privacy Day. Data Privacy Day an international effort to promote awareness about respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust. Want to be #PrivacyAware? Here are some steps you can take to help protect your privacy while online.
To keep your data secure and private, you have to keep cybercriminals from getting a foothold on your devices. A majority of malware infections could be prevented by simply keeping your system up to date with the latest operating system (OS) and application updates. A quick web search for “turn on automatic updates” will help you find instructions for updating your OS.
- Use comprehensive security software on all your devices
Keeping your system up to date will help you stay safe from older viruses, but you should also install anti-virus on your system to protect against new threats or older threats that haven’t yet been fixed by OS or application updates. Our McAfee Labs team currently sees an average of 5 new threats every second and there is no indication that the bad guys are slowing down. Installing anti-virus is a simple step you can take to protect your system.
- Use a complex password
The first line of defense for keeping your online data safe is your password. Online Security 101 says you should always use a complex and hard to guess password online, but anytime hackers release a large list of compromised passwords the old standards like “password” or “123456” always show up in the list. You should also never use a password that is related to any sort of personal information someone might know about you. Birthdays and anniversaries might be easy to remember (ok, sometimes we forget anniversaries) but they should never be used as a password.
In addition to using a complex password, if you have the option to use two-factor authentication it can add another level of security to your account.
- Never reuse a password
Due to the almost overwhelming number of cyberattacks that happen on a daily basis, it’s inevitable that a site you use will be hacked and your username and password may be exposed. When this happens, hackers will try to reuse those credentials in as many places as they can in hopes of gaining access to sensitive information. If you use a different password for every single account, then you don’t have to scramble to change all of your passwords before the cybercriminals get to them. Since we’ve all agreed after reading tip 3 to never use easy to use passwords, how do we juggle multiple complex passwords? There are many great password management tools available that can sync across multiple devices and keep all of your passwords handy.
- Be suspicious!
Cybercriminals will try all sorts of methods to get your data, one of the more successful methods is social engineering. Social engineering takes many forms, like telling you that you need to update your account information or that you need to provide your bank account information to receive unclaimed money. Always be wary of clicking on any link in an email you weren’t expecting to receive. This includes email from people you know, as they may have been infected and don’t realize they are sending malware. Check out this post for tips on how to spot a phishing email.
- Restrict the amount of data you share online
When we talk about oversharing, most people immediately think of social networks. While it is important to properly tune your privacy settings on social networks, you should also pay attention to information you provide when filling out forms or creating accounts online. The forms used hen signing up for a newsletter or creating a new account on website can often ask for a lot more information that is necessary. If you want to sign up for an email newsletter, it’s probably not important that you provide your home address or income information. Typically these forms will have indicators letting you know which information is required and which is optional. If the information isn’t required, don’t provide it.
- Keep an eye on your online accounts
Even if you are vigilant about using unique and complex passwords while limiting your sharing of information, it is possible that at some point your bank or credit card company might get hacked. It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for unauthorized activity on your online accounts. Many credit card companies have smartphone apps that will alert whenever there is new activity. Seeing these notifications can help you notice if your account has been compromised.