From Colin Powell’s emails leak to the hack of the Democratic National Convention’s servers, it’s clear that no one is safe from digital break-ins. That said, there are still things you can do to protect your personal information while online.
Our friends at Consumer Reports have developed this Digital Privacy Tune-up to help you make your data more secure. Protect your privacy and prevent identity theft by following these simple steps:
- Allow automatic updates. According to security experts at Google, keeping your software up-to-date is the single most important step in boosting a device’s security. It may seem like a nuisance, but experts agree software updates are “lifesavers.” It’s as simple as this: if you have old software, you don’t have the latest protections.
- Lock all screens. Set a password for each and every one of your devices. Lost or stolen machines without screen locks mean your personal data is fully accessible to whoever has your device. Experts recommend a screen lock that is at least 6 characters long. They also suggest avoiding easy to guess passwords such as your birthdate or phone number.
- Check your data breach status. Visit haveibeenpwned.com to find out if your personal data has been stolen and posted for sale on the web. You can check your email addresses and user names against lists from 120 known data breaches at companies including LinkedIn, Adobe and Snapchat. If your name is there, immediately change your password there and at any other site you use the same password for.
- Cover your webcam. If Mark Zukerberg and James Comey do it, you probably should too. Put a piece of tape or a Post-It note over your webcam to prevent hackers from turning on your webcam without your knowledge.
- Use temporary email addresses. Everyone wants your email address nowadays, but it doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. If you need to provide an email address to access a website or register for a loyalty card, get a temporary address from 10minutemail.com. The site gives you a functional email address for 10 minutes or the time needed for you to log on to a site. The email address, along with any of your data, self-destructs after the allotted time is up.
- Use the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension. HTTPS Everywhere is an extension created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Tor Project which automatically switches thousands of sites from insecure "http" to secure "https." It will protect you against many forms of surveillance and account hijacking. It works with Chrome, Firefox and Opera browsers.
- Turn off location tracking in apps. With the exception of Uber or restaurant-recommendation services, there’s no reason to share your location data with companies. You can decide which companies or apps can access that data in your phone’s settings. iPhone users should go to Settings, then Location Services. From there, they can scroll down to any app to choose which ones can access location information. Android users can do the same on devices running a recent version of the operating system (6.0 Marshmallow or later). Users should reach the Application Manager through Settings. Once there, users can adjust the Permissions on individual apps.