Your personal information has a real monetary value to governments, hackers, and marketing agencies. 4.1 billion records were exposed in the first 6 months of 2019 – that’s 50% more than the last 4 years combined. Privacy and security are more important than ever, but what’s the difference and how can you protect yourself? Find out below.
Privacy is an individual’s right to have control over their personal information, with the right to know or restrict if it’s being collected, stored and used.
The security of your data depends on the technologies or policies held by an organisation or country holding your data, to provide confidentiality and integrity.
Certain parts of your personal information are valuable and can be sold on the dark web within seconds. This could include your name, address, national insurance number, date of birth and facial image. Others may include your vehicle registration number, credit card details, fingerprints, IP address and health records. With so much of your data out there, it’s imperative to have some kind of security in place.
There can be much overlap between privacy and security. Privacy safeguards your data against unauthorized use, but the ways in which it is safeguarded falls under cybersecurity. You can’t have one without the other.
Your online identity is like a jigsaw puzzle. Pieces of the jigsaw are everywhere and for a person desperate enough to piece them all together, they aren’t hard to find. An identity thief only needs a few fragments of your life to impersonate you. Your social security number or credit card number perhaps, even an address you’ve inadvertently advertised in a photograph on Facebook… This is why it’s best to take your security into your own hands.
Manage your cookie intake
Deleting your cookies is always a good move if you want to lessen the impact of being tracked. Cookies can be used in tracking schemes 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!
Be wise about WiFi
Public free WiFi 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 wifi is an open book (unless you use a VPN).
Know when it’s a phishing scam
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. That probably means it’ll have infected links within it that can freeze your system and reveal all of your personal information. This could include credit card details, contacts, addresses and more.
Look for the little green lock in your browser
When you’re sending personal or financial information online, the lock ensures your data is encrypted while it’s travelling from A to B.
The lock symbol also verifies the identity of the site owner through the issuing of a TLS or SSL security certificate – a mandatory procedure when using the HTTPS protocol.
Always use strong passwords
A different password for each site you visit is ideal. Funnily enough, it’s one of the most powerful forms of cyber security, 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.
Pay attention to domain names
Commonly misspelled domain names or those including sequences of random numbers shouldn’t be trusted. For example, someone masquerading as Paypal may use the bogus domain: firstname.lastname@example.org instead of @PayPal.com. A legitimate organization will usually call you by your name, so ignore attempts such as “Dear valued customer” or “Dear account holder”.
If in doubt, you can always copy and paste a suspicious URL into this “Phishing Checker which analyzes the URL and displays the destination domain. A crucial clue in exposing a trickster.
Switch search engines
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 an even better option for unbeatable privacy and protection. This is because it’s encrypted with the same level of security the military use. For convenience Nord also offer a VPN Chrome extension, which will only hide your IP address while using Chrome. Perfect for a more tailored approach to privacy.
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