6 Must-Take Steps to Protect Yourself from a Data Breach
A data breach can take place in many ways. Whether it involves gaining physical access to your laptop or a malicious cyberattack on your device, the safety of your data could be easily compromised at any time. And the results of a data breach could take various forms like wiping out your bank accounts and even stealing your identity for unlawful activity.
With the rapid advancements in technology, these security threats are increasingly gaining traction. According to a research report by Risk Based Security, 4.1 billion records were compromised within the first 6 months of 2019 alone. And the average cost per breach has risen to $8.19 million in 2019.
So, what can you do to avoid a malicious cyberattack? Here are 6 proven steps you must take today to safeguard your personal information.
1. Remove unwanted online data
Have you ever done a Google search of your name? Well, you'll be surprised by the amount of data that it could uncover. Every small action you take in the digital space, whether it's a free newsletter sign-up or an online search for a hotel, leaves an unmistakable data trail. But there are steps you can take to minimize it and to remove any unnecessary data currently available online.
With 3.48 billion users across the world, social media platforms have become a great resource to gather personal information of just about anyone nowadays. Therefore, periodically go through your social profiles and ensure that you remove any unnecessary, sensitive or identifiable information, posts, comments or photos you may have. Also, ensure that you close down any unused online profiles and limit your online activities to a few social media platforms so that you can easily keep track of them.
People search sites like Nuwber are another source of large collections of personal data. These data aggregators provide their services to screen individuals for various purposes and therefore build massive collections of profiles based on countless sources. However, most of them give you the option to opt-out. So, identify these sites and send requests to remove your personal information from their databases.
2. Password safety
There are many scams and cyberattacks aimed at infiltrating passwords that can grant access to a range of personal and financial data. Therefore, secure passwords are a must for protecting your devices, files, and accounts.
Always utilize unique passwords with upper and lowercase letters, digits and special characters and ensure that you change them regularly. Avoid easily guessable passwords like birthdays and use your phone as authentification when available for added security. When a hacker gets access to one account, they often try to gain access to other accounts and devices under your name. So, ensure that you set up different passwords for all of your accounts.
Keep them secure and avoid writing them down, sharing with others, storing online or saving them on your browser. Always keep the 'save passwords' feature of your browser turned off. These can be hacked easily by a smart cybercriminal, making your accounts and devices vulnerable to data breaches.
And if you are struggling to remember passwords set up for various accounts, use a secure password manager like Dashlane and LastPass.
3. Avoid public Wi-Fi
It's very tempting to use public Wi-Fi, with many places like coffee shops, hotels, airports, and shopping malls offering it for free. However, this leaves your devices exposed to anyone wishing to spy on your online activities.
So, if you must use public Wi-Fi, avoid login into your emails, bank accounts or any other personal profile that uses a password and which may expose sensitive or confidential information. A secure Virtual Private Network or VPN can help shield you from intrusive eyes. There are many free and paid VPN services that can route your internet traffic through servers in multiple countries.
Better yet, open up a hot spot whenever possible so that you can use your mobile phone data. You can do this easily by going into Wireless Connections under your phone's Settings.
4. Avoid unnecessary apps
The apps you download on to your mobile device can seriously compromise your security. They can potentially get access to your phone activities and data stored in the device. And they could transmit or share these details with third parties for marketing purposes or even malicious activities.
Therefore, avoid downloading third-party apps as much as possible. And if you must do so, choose a well-known app store like the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
Always check what app permissions you need to grant when downloading apps. These can include access to your location, contact lists, messages, and photos. While some of these features could be required for the app to function effectively, they could often include items that are not necessary.
Also, delete any apps that are unused or rarely used by you. If you haven't used them up until now, chances are you won't need them in the future.
5. Update your software
Leaving installed software untouched for months and even years without much thought is a common mistake made by many people.
However, just like everything else, software also needs regular updates. This could help get the latest security updates, fix security issues and bugs, and protect your device from being exposed to attacks. Therefore, it's important to install the latest versions of software in your devices to prevent potential vulnerabilities.
If you tend to forget to do this manually, you can easily set up automatic updates. And ensure that you allow time for installation no matter how busy you are.
6. Avoid click baits
Click baits are a common hazard nowadays and can trick you into clicking on malicious links shared through emails, text messages, social media, websites, blogs, and the like.
These can direct you to seemingly legitimate and well-known websites and get you to disclose confidential details like passwords through sign-ups or account verifications. Clicking on these links could also lead to malware being downloaded to steal your data or for a hostile takeover of your device.
Therefore, think twice before you click on links and delete or flag any suspicious-looking message.
If you are worried about protecting your data from getting into the wrong hands, follow these 6 essential steps today to strengthen your data security. Keeping your guards up and taking necessary safety measures can prevent a whole lot of anxiety and despair later on.
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