Article

John Terra
John Terra 24 March 2015

Personal Data Safety Tips And Tricks

"Celebgate" and "The Fappening" underscore the vulnerability of personal data online. Here's how to stay safe.

In August of 2014, around 500 pictures of celebrities, a lot of them women, were posted on social media, illegally obtained, it is believed, by means of a breach of iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage service.



The incident, given names like "Celebgate" (because all scandals require a name with the suffix "-gate"), and "The Fappening" (because after all, the Internet is a classy place), underscored the vulnerability of personal data online. But you’re not a celebrity, so you’re safe, right? After all, what would a hacker want with your mundane personal information?

Well, you may not be famous, but you probably have a few nickels to rub together, so they’ll happily settle for divesting you of them via hacking your personal data. Or they could use your personal information to create fake identities and/or fraudulent credit card accounts, personal loans, and more.

By taking just a few precautionary measures, you can make it tougher for these parasites to hack you. And while no measure is totally infallible, it’s possible to make things tough enough that putting in the effort to get your information is not worth the trouble, considering how many other folks out there take no measures whatsoever.

Mint.com has a great infographic on personal data safety, in the meantime, here are a few tips and tricks for boosting data security.

Beware Of Suspicious Emails
Every once in a while you’ll get an email ostensibly from a financial institution that you use, telling you that they suspect a data breach, and if you would please just click on the link that they considerately supply, your identity will be verified. Otherwise, they promise, they’ll shut down your account indefinitely.

Well, they’re right about one thing: there is a breach going on, and when you’re reading that kind of email, you’re looking right at it! Never accept emails like this at face value. If your bank or credit card has a major account problem, you can just log on to the respective site and read any updates or customer messages.

Remember, phishers and hackers spent a lot of time creating convincing looking emails. Don’t take the bait. In fact, it’s not even unreasonable to delete emails without even opening them if you don’t recognize the recipient. Furthermore, don’t click on any email attachments, because doing so could introduce you to ...

The Joys Of Malware
The thing that makes malware so insidious is that it can sit in the background, quietly running, and you never know it. All the while, it’s gathering your data and doing who knows what to it. Sometimes it enters your system via an email attachment; sometimes it gets downloaded if you click onto a site that may not have the best reputation. That’s why you should routinely run a malware scan (there are many reputable utilities out there that you can download) on a regular basis, in order to search for hidden programs that may be rewriting code or stealing data.

Practicing Safe Passwords
According to the above infographic, one of the most popular passwords people use is ... "password." Is it any wonder that cybercrime is rampant? This is the equivalent of leaving your doors and windows open, then announcing that you’re going away for a week and no one will be home. Good luck with that! That is why you need to change passwords often, not use the same one for every user or account login you have, and make it a hard to guess password with a liberal mix of numbers and letters.

It’s Easy To Make Hackers’ Lives Difficult
Just those three measures, as modest and common sense as they are, are nevertheless not done by enough people online. Follow the tips, and you’ll make your data that much more secure.

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