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A Simple Guide to Online Privacy and Protecting Your Identity

A Simple Guide to Online Privacy and Protecting Your Identity

Posted by TEAM ASCEND on 4/2/18 5:33 PM

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It is easier than ever for cyber criminals to obtain your private information, especially when “trustworthy” sites are the ones putting it on the line.

Follow these simple steps to ensure you’re doing what you can to keep your information safe at work and at home:


Check for credibility

When you’re shopping online or creating an account on a website, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you trust this business?
  • Is it a well-known or established organization?
  • Is the organization credible?
  • Is the site SSL certified?

While you can’t rely solely on these questions to determine the credibility of an organization, they can help you make a more informed decision. Do a quick search of the company and see what others are saying. Getting in the mindset of asking these questions can help you keep a critical eye on the sites you visit.


Use security features

Passwords are a pain, but they’re worth it. Even if a password is optional, use it. Don’t roll your eyes at a website that asks for at least one uppercase and lowercase letter, a number, and a symbol—these requirements are meant to help protect your personal and financial information. Try creating passwords that are harder for hackers (or password-cracking software) to discover, or use a password management application to help generate and safely store the passwords you use. If you want to learn more about password safety, check out this Whiteboard Wednesday blog.

Another security feature to consider is two-factor or multi-factor authentication. If a site or app offers two-factor authentication, this is something you should take advantage of. This option is best for high-value accounts like your main email, bank, or credit cards, as it will require you to have access to a personal device or other personal account in order to log in. Google has a helpful guide to understanding their two-factor authentication options and how they work.


Devote one email & one credit card to online purchases

Not only will a separate email for online shopping accounts keep your primary account free from spam messages, but it will also help protect your privacy and keep your important information secure.

Similarly, using only one credit card for online purchases can minimize potential damage. It can also help if your card for online purchases has a lower credit limit. So, if a hacker were to steal and use that card information, their spending spree would stop much sooner—leaving you less of a mess to clean up.  It is also advised that you avoid using your debit card for online purchases. It’s much easier to file credit fraud claims than to get back money that a hacker has stolen from your bank account.


Look into privacy policies

But no one ever reads those!

It’s true, they can be pretty lengthy, dense reads. Try skimming through and looking for information that stands out. Check the sections or headings for information about the use and distribution of your information. You may find that a brand’s privacy policy reserves the right to distribute or sell your email address to email marketing lists, or collects and saves personal information. Without reading through the privacy policy, you don’t know what you are signing away when you click “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions.”

The social media scandal in March was a clear example of this. Luckily, when privacy and identity issues are brought into the public eye, it forces companies to make changes. Use these as an opportunity to review what information is being collected, and if you have control over that, take advantage of the options to change or remove the information you’d like to keep private.


Google yourself

Not sure what information you’ve shared or what personal data sites have collected? Google it. As Infogressive CEO, Justin Kallhoff explains in this interview, you might be surprised what information is out there. There are many resources you can use that go beyond the top google search results as well. To see profile information that has been collected, try Pipl. If you’re wondering whether your email address has been compromised or shared to spam lists, try Have I Been Pwned.


Bottom line…

Be critical of the way you use online accounts and pay attention to what information you put out there. If it doesn’t seem safe and secure, don’t do it.

Taking these steps can help you prevent identity theft and protect the privacy of your digital information at work, at home, and everywhere in between. If you found these tips helpful, share them!



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Posted in Password Security, Cybersecurity Tips & Best Practices