Privacy is a hot topic, yet there are many people today who underestimate the value of privacy – and who misunderstand how their privacy is maintained online. With these quick 9 questions, you can test yourself to make sure your privacy stays as intended, private.

1. Do you manage your passwords?

What does password management mean? Let’s break it down.

Using Strong Passwords

By now, anyone still using “ilovejesus”, “QWERTY” or “123456$” as their account passwords should probably have their Internet access revoked – for their own protection. In a time when cyber thieves are getting smarter and employing more devious methods, the least you can do is to get a strong password.

For starters, do not include any personal details in your password but do use a mixture of numbers and letters as well as special characters. If you’re looking to go all the way, consider using two-factor authentication, password managers, and Diceware.

Changing passwords periodically

Practice shows that even most complex passwords can be cracked over time. Hackers commonly maintain a database of known passwords and use it periodically in their hacking efforts. You must change the passwords – and no, just adding “1” or “$” to the end of the old password does not do the trick. Try to get a bit more creative, and remember to change passwords at least every 3 months or so.

Using different passwords in multiple places

When hackers get a hold of your password, they will try it in more than one place. It is very tempting to pick one “good” password that you believe is uncrackable and use it everywhere, but again – once the cracked password ends up in the hackers’ database, your “good” password is as good as dead. Please, come up with the creative way to maintain different passwords for different places.

Keeping passwords private

This one does not need an explanation. Keep your passwords to yourself, period.

2. Are you committed to keeping your private info private?

Remember that you are the one who controls what information you share online. If you don’t share it, they can’t get a hold of it. In keeping with this idea:

  • Do not give away your real email address for online giveaways or for websites that might engage in suspicious marketing.
  • Do not share any personal data on public/insecure machines and networks.
  • Even if you are on a secure device or network, remember that anything you share online effectively becomes permanent, and can be shared or manipulated without your knowledge. A good way to see if this is happening is to Google yourself periodically.

Come to think about it, it’s best that you don’t log in to your social media or online bank accounts at all when you’re out in public. Many of these networks routinely gather and send your data to third parties, and rogue networks can snoop your traffic and passwords or inject malware and ads onto your device.

The best way to protect yourself against such risks is to avoid accessing your social media or online bank via a public connection or someone else’s device. But if you have to (or really really want to), you should…

3.  Do you use a VPN?

Some people may not even know what a VPN is, but if you ever needed to work from home, VPTN is a choice to stick with. Connecting your device to a VPN redirects all of your device traffic through a secure and encrypted tunnel. This means Internet service providers or sketchy parties trying to peek into your device traffic will only see a bunch of meaningless garbage.

In addition, using a VPN allows you to access content that is blocked in certain countries and can even help you save money while shopping. When you’re connected to a VPN, third parties will only see the IP address of the network you are connected to, instead of your real IP address. All said, using a VPN should be standard procedure for all forms of Internet usage, public or not.

4. Do you give out your information?

Have you ever participated in silly little contests on Facebook to find out if you are one of the “rare 1%” of people who can remember movie quotes of the 80-ies or what famous character you have been in your past life? Sounds like harmless fun on social media, but think about it – are these “quintessential” answers worth giving out your personal information, such as your name, email address, your birthday, list of friends?

It’s common practice for companies to ask for your email address or personal details in order to “unlock” certain content or to enter a contest. On the surface, submitting a simple email address may not seem like a big deal. The truth is, marketers are collecting your information for direct marketing purposes. Worse still, they are often selling it to other companies for revenue.

When faced with these situations in the future, remember to ask yourself: How useful is this content that I’m exchanging my email for? How likely am I to win this prize? Chances are, you almost certainly won’t win anything, but the marketer will definitely have gained a new lead for future monetization. If need be, create some pseudonymous email addresses. They can be a gateway to a lot of fun.

5. Do you give out your location?

Let’s face it: we all love to share our current location online. Taking a vacation and checking in at that dream luxury resort? Time for a Facebook check-in (complete with cheeky status update). Enjoying a delicious buffet with your significant other? Why not share a few mouth-watering snaps (along with the restaurant’s location) on Instagram?

Understandably, it’s fun to check in and record where you’ve been. However, this makes it very easy for third parties to track your exact location, and can potentially lead to actual physical harm. For a chilling example, look no further than Pokémon Go, where unsuspecting players have been lured and mugged by armed robbers pretending to offer rare Pokémon.

6. Do you engage with SPAM?

Even if you don’t exchange your email for online content/prizes, you’ll still receive the occasional fishy email or spam. The first (and only) thing you should do is to delete those emails. By opening the email, or clicking any links inside it, you are likely inviting malicious attacks on your device and personal privacy.

Furthermore, never reply to suspicious emails. You might be tempted to reply and ask to be removed from the mailing list, but not only will that not work, you will also have confirmed to spammers that your email address is indeed active – likely inviting more useless (or harmful) messages in the future. As for your email provider, replying to spam indicates that you actually find these emails useful, making it more likely that they will no longer be labeled as spam moving forward. In short, ignore and delete any emails in your spam folder, and click “report” for any spam emails that have not been identified as such by your email provider.

7. Do you watch out for Cookies?

Cookies: they go great with milk, come in all shapes and sizes, and are used to de-anonymize you online. Broadly speaking, websites use cookies to construct a virtual ID for you. This allows companies to track your movement and behavior across websites and feed you targeted advertisements, which are designed to bring them more revenue.

To defend yourself against cookies, you can get browser add-ons such as AdBlock or Privacy Badger or use a private browser.

8. Do you browse the web anonymously?

Speaking of private, try using tools that allow you to browse the web anonymously. Here is an excellent article on this topic: How to Browse Web Anonymously – Techlicious

9. Do you remember to Log Out?

On a final note, logging out of your social media and online bank accounts after using them is like locking your front door when you leave home. It’s quick, simple, and prevents unwanted intruders from gaining access to your personal data.

Some people believe merely closing the window where you are logged in is enough to prevent others from accessing your account. The truth is, you may still be signed in to your account on that device, leaving you vulnerable to tracking. The only way to be sure is to log yourself out when you are done using an online service – especially if you are using a public machine/network.

Remaining private, safe and secure is something that every business using the internet should be concerned with. For more information on how to keep your business data private, be sure to contact by calling (201) 493-1414 x 311. We can help you find gaps in privacy and security and help you improve privacy and security.

Let’s have a talk about your specific business IT needs! We cannot wait to start a conversation with you – call us or submit a complimentary consultation request, today.

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