By Raquel Ríos, Marketing Specialist at Techsoulogy.
January 28th is Data Privacy Day. An international day of commemoration to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our privacy on the Internet and encouraging good practices in terms of how to manage our personal data online.
From general information and, to a certain extent, anonymized information such as gender, age range, geographical area or websites we visit, to much more sensitive information such as our name and surname(s), address and even bank details that identify us as real people and are exposed to a number of risks and private interests.
Raising awareness about data protection in 2023 also coincides with a time of uncertainty with regard to the potential disappearance of third-party cookies which is likely to happen sooner or later and the alternatives that are emerging in the advertising industry to tackle a potential cookieless digital ecosystem.
Your personal data is extremely valuable and it is important to know when and with whom you share it.
In the face of these new challenges and to make progress with all of the work that is still to be done in terms of raising awareness about privacy in this hyper-connected world, here at Techsoulogy, we have gathered a list of seven basic (but no less important) tips to keep your personal information safe.
These are the basic recommendations “with techsoulogy” regarding online privacy:
- How to protect my privacy on desktop devices
- Tips to keep my data safe on my mobile phone
- Recommendations for creating secure passwords
- Basic precautions for shopping on the Internet
- Essential privacy guides for your email
- How to guarantee the privacy of children on the Internet
- Tips for managing your financial information safely online
How to protect my privacy on desktop devices
Some of the most basic tips for keeping your computer secure and, therefore, the personal data you store on this type of device, include:
- Set a secure login password (later in this post we explain what requirements passwords should meet to be “hacker proof”).
- Cover your webcam with a sticker when you aren’t using it to protect you from potential unauthorized intrusions into your private life.
- Monitor file exchange programs to prevent data leaks and harmful downloads.
- Update your computer when required to prevent security risks. Bear in mind that software that isn’t updated is much more vulnerable and accessible to cybercriminals.
- Install and keep antivirus, firewall, and anti-spyware programs up to date.
- Switch off your computer whenever you aren’t using it to prevent it from being exposed to any type of 24/7 cyber-attack.
Tips to keep my data safe on my mobile phone
The mobile phone is undoubtedly the King of devices connected to the Internet nowadays. And, as such, it is worth protecting the most in order to prevent any nasty surprises relating to our personal data. The basic thing you should bear in mind in order to keep your private data safe on your mobile is:
- Establish a very safe login password and configure unique and non-transferable biometric identification systems, such as fingerprints or facial recognition.
- Disable geolocation when you aren’t using it to prevent you from being located at all times.
- Think twice before connecting to a public network that might not be completely secure.
- Avoid clicking on suspicious links, even if they come from someone you know and especially if they are viral WhatsApp messages. Also common are SMS with senders that are similar to banking entities or courier companies that include links to pages where they try to steal your data.
- Take care with your personal photos and photos of other people before sharing them on social networks or through instant messaging apps. There are an increasing number of features that enable you to send photos that can only be viewed once to prevent the recipient from storing them on their device or even taking a screen shot for unauthorized purposes.
- Only give your mobile telephone number to people you know and trust.
- Block and report contacts displaying inappropriate or suspicious behavior.
Furthermore, when you download applications onto your mobile device, it is also important that you check what type of access you allow to each of them and when. It is likely that not all of them need to know your location or access your mobile phone camera images to work correctly or that they need them solely and exclusively when in use.
Recommendations for creating secure passwords
Much has been written about secure passwords and you are probably well aware of the theory. The difficulty is in putting it into practice.
Even so, our duty as an active party in raising awareness about online privacy is to remind you that you should:
- Avoid easy or repeated passwords: your date of birth, the typical “1234” or your children’s names are easy passwords to hack. And repeating the same password for email, Facebook, Instagram, and your online banking makes it even easier for people with illegitimate interests. It is recommended that you create long passwords, containing at least 8 characters, which combine letters and numbers, alternate upper case and lower-case letters, and which also include special characters like question marks (“?”) or exclamation marks (“!”).
- Store them in a safe place. And no, your email or Google Drive are not safe places to store your passwords. We know that, when you make the effort to configure a different password for each tool, it is easy for your memory to fail you. This is particularly the case with long passwords with different alphanumeric characters. That’s why there are specific tools, many of them with free versions, where you can store your passwords completely safely. Some examples are Bitwarden, LastPass or KeePass.
- Change them every so often to increase security. Do this especially if you ever detect any unauthorized access or you have any type of suspicions. In this case, you should reset your password immediately.
- Make sure that you have a recovery system for emergency situations where you can’t remember the password and you don’t have another way of accessing the tool.
Shopping on the internet, without moving from the sofa, avoiding long queues, and having the package delivered to your door the next day is one of the great advantages of e-commerce. Advantages that boosted its growth enormously, especially as a result of the pandemic.
However, by entering your personal and banking details onto the Internet, you are exposing your privacy to certain risks that you should be aware of and try to prevent by following these basic tips:
- Before making a purchase from a brand you are not familiar with or that offers huge discounts compared to the others on the market, carry out some research in advance, read customer reviews and search for them on social networks to make sure they are trustworthy.
- Check the URL twice, especially if there are slight variations in the spelling, the color of the brand, or the logos. You will be surprised how often some fake websites that are trying to scam you look like the original websites of the real brands.
- Make sure the website you are using has the HTTPS security padlock rather than HTTP.
- If you are making a purchase through your mobile phone, always use the official brand apps and avoid suspicious third-party platforms to make secure transactions and prevent potential surcharges by intermediaries.
- When you go to make a payment on a website, connect to a secure and private wifi network to reduce the risk of potential leaks of information or theft of your data.
- Take your time to think before buying. Don’t fall into the trap of calls to action that are too urgent and warn you of low stock levels or the end of a juicy offer. It could be a scam
And above all, whenever you shop on the internet, take time to check the conditions you are accepting before you advance to the payment gateway. We are so used to online shopping that we sometimes do it automatically and end up revealing more personal data than is strictly necessary.
Essential privacy guides for your email
Email is also one of the entry points for identity theft and the theft of personal data. The most important tip here is to never give personal information via email (the same is the case over the phone or using instant messaging applications). This is particularly crucial when regarding financial information or you are not absolutely sure that the sender is definitely who they say they are.
In addition to this big red line, other basic guidelines you should bear in mind to protect your privacy when using email are:
- Don’t answer suspicious emails. Especially those that mention offers that seem too tempting or come from addresses that appear to come from your contacts but ask you something unusual.
- Never share personal data with unknown senders. Especially if it relates to financial information.
- Filter unwanted messages to the spam folder.
- Take extra care with the attachments you download to avoid spyware. In this same vein, you should also make sure that you have some kind of antivirus software installed on the device you use to check your email (both desktop and mobile)
How to guarantee the privacy of children on the Internet
Children are the most vulnerable group and also the least aware of the importance of establishing certain precautions when it comes to browsing the internet. Hence the importance of teaching them to think critically and to supervise the websites they visit and the people they interact with online.
Basic good practices for taking care of children’s privacy on the Internet are:
- Supervise the pages they visit and the personal information they share on social networks or any other type of digital application.
- Teach them to identify which websites are safe and not to trust suspicious links, content, and download files.
- Warn them that they shouldn’t only be careful with their own personal information, but they should also respect other people’s information.
- Monitor who they contact and interact with on the Internet.
- Check the privacy settings of their social networks and mobile phones to reduce the risk areas when it comes to their privacy.
Tips for managing your financial information safely online
The final aspect that we are reviewing in this guide of basic tips to look after your online privacy is related to our financial information, to access our bank accounts, and, therefore, all of our savings.
Here are the most important things to bear in mind:
- Never reveal financial information through any tool that does not have a minimum encryption system or doesn’t come from a reliable source, such as your bank itself.
- Use credit cards with a monetary limit placed on them to protect your savings in the event of theft or a data breach.
- Enable notifications on your banking app to detect strange movements in real-time and be able to act as soon as possible.
- Save emails and online receipts to prevent unauthorized charges.
In addition to these practical tips, which depend solely and exclusively on us as active Internet users and the people responsible for protecting our own identities, there is no doubt still a lot to be done from the point of view of legislation and the digital industry.
In any case, remember that your personal details are extremely valuable, they belong to you and that, if you send them to someone, it is important to know which details, when and who you are sending them to.