Your personal information has a real monetary value to governments, hackers, and marketing agencies. That’s why they try to gather, buy, or sometimes seize your data – legally or not. Strong online privacy and security can prevent your data from ending up in the wrong hands and being used against you, but what’s the difference between the two? Find out below.
Privacy and security go hand in hand, so some consider them the same and use them interchangeably. However, they are not.
Privacy is an individual’s right to control their personal information – to know or restrict how it’s being collected, transferred, stored, and used. It’s all about transparency.
Most companies and organizations have to follow privacy laws and regulations (like GDPR or HIPAA), inform how they collect your data, and only use it with your consent. That’s why you often have to click on privacy agreements when you download an app or can tweak your privacy settings on social media platforms.
Security, on the other hand, is how your data is protected from unauthorized access and abuse. The responsibility of your data security falls on the shoulders of companies and institutions that collect your data,as well as you. There are many tools and technology that can help to ensure security. These can include but are not limited to:
Security protects your data while privacy protects your identity. However, one rarely exists without the other. A company might have strict privacy regulations, but if they don’t have robust security in place, your data can be easily stolen by hackers. If they have strong security, but lenient privacy policies, then your data might be guarded against hackers, but that doesn’t guarantee that your data won’t be shared with third parties or abused by the company itself.
Many companies probably already have some of your personal information – your name, address, national insurance number, date of birth, and facial image. All of this is valuable to companies, governments, third parties, and hackers. Not taking privacy and security seriously could lead to someone getting hold of your data without your permission and using it to:
Therefore, it’s important to take care of your data and apply the best privacy and security practices where possible. Fortunately, not everything depends on organizations that collect your data. You can take action too.
Deleting your cookies is always a good move if you want to lessen the impact of being tracked. Cookies can be used by many large browsers to create extremely detailed user profiles. They can also support malicious attacks from hackers and, as plaintext files, can easily be read and harvested by third parties. And there are even super-cookies out there!
Free public Wi-Fi can be hard to resist – it’s free, easy, and makes your commute way more entertaining. But it’s also a honey trap for hackers. Some commonly used wireless security protocols are still flawed.
Hackers can hack into routers or position themselves between you and the connection point, so anything you happen to type lands neatly in their laps. Even if you’re just checking sports scores or emailing a friend, remember that anything you do while connected to public Wi-Fi is an open book (unless you encrypt your traffic using a VPN).
If you suddenly received an unexpected email, instant message, or text with instructions to urgently change your password – resist the curiosity to click on it. It’s probably a phishing scam. It can hide infected links that will freeze your system and reveal all of your personal information to hackers.
When browsing, look for the green padlock next to the URL. It indicates whether the connection between you and the website is secure. If you see one, it means that the website encrypts your traffic by using the HTTPS connection. It also shows that the site has been verified and has a TLS or SSL security certificate.
Having a different password for each site you visit is one of the most powerful forms of cybersecurity, but is often taken least seriously. Always use a mixture of lower/uppercase letters, special characters, and non-dictionary words. For an expert guide, see our post on strong passwords here.
Another common mistake is assuming some passwords are less important than others. Take your Gmail account, for example. Your email password is usually connected to your online banking account, in which case a hacker can simply request a change of your banking password and have it sent straight to your mailbox – with dire consequences.
Some domain names might pretend to be what they aren’t and hide malware or lead you to sites that will steal your details. For example, someone masquerading as Paypal may create a Paypol domain and you may not notice the difference. Learn to recognize spoofed URLs and resist clicking on them at all costs.
Most popular search engines keep track of what you search for to target you with specific ads. If you’d prefer to keep your search history out of the hands of marketers or other snoopers, use a private search engine that won’t track any of your personal data.
If you like the familiarity of Google but still value your privacy, using a VPN is a great compromise. It hides your location and original IP, making it difficult for tech giants to track you and link your data to your original profile. For convenience Nord also offers a VPN Chrome extension. A VPN also encrypts your traffic, meaning that any online snoopers and hackers cannot see or intercept what you do online.
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