Online privacy – or the apparently staggering lack thereof – has been a hot topic for years. It seems every day there’s another story about how much personal information is stolen or compiled or misused in some manner.
You can pretty easily control how much of your personal information is available to be misused by simply controlling what you make available.
If you’re worried about people accessing your naughty pictures, either don’t upload them to photo storage systems or don’t take them in the first place.
If you’re worried about people getting access to your banking information or credit card numbers, be vigilant about what sites you give that information. Many banks and credit companies now offer very restrictive online only credit cards that can limit the amount of damage a leaked credit card cumber can do.
If you’re just worried in general about unauthorized people spying on you online, be careful about using unsecured WiFi connections, use secure access as much as possible and make sure you use good, robust passwords. Be cautious about what you upload or post. In the old days, I used to tell clients that anything the put anywhere online was essentially posted in the most public possible place and accessible by anyone, anytime, forever. If you’ve got information that you REALLY don’t want anyone to know, don’t count on any online service keeping it totally secure. Leaks happen.
The bottom line is that your privacy online is much like it is in the real world – as good as your habits.
I know. It’s infuriating. Every site wants a log-in and a password.
It’s tempting to use one username and one password for every site, but that’s a disaster waiting to happen. If you go that route, what happens when your username and password for one site gets leaked? Yup…. if you’ve used the same log-in credentials for everything, somebody who has access to one thing has access to everything.
Here’s a way around it – use a consistent pattern for your passwords rather than a consistent password. Make it something you can remember but tough for someone else to guess. Make it something with letters, numbers and punctuation so it’s likely to meet most sites password requirements. Make it something that changes for each site you need to log in to.
For example – start with something random and memorable like ‘Tiger!123’ and add the name of the site. That would mean your Google password might be ‘Tiger!123Google’ and your Apple password would be ‘Tiger!123Apple’.
See how that works? You get something you can remember but anybody else would have a hard time guessing, and it’s different for every site, so compromising one doesn’t compromise all of them.
Sometimes it feels like the internet is filled with nothing but cats and con artists. Whether you like cats or not is up to you, but nobody likes con artists.
One of the most common scams involves a con artist claiming to be from ‘Microsoft Support’ calling an unsuspecting victim and claiming that person’s computer has been infected with some kind of virus or malware. They clam that if the victim gives them a credit card number, they can fix the ‘problem.’ If the victim gives them the number, the scammer then directs the victim to download and install a ‘fix.’ Of course, the ‘fix’ is actually some kind of malware, typically opening up the victim’s computer to further mischief while the scammer happily uses the ill-gotten credit card number.
Protecting against this scam is easy – BE SKEPTICAL!
Ask yourself “Does it make sense that Microsoft, a massive company with software used by billions of computers all over the world, would be calling me? Would they really employ someone to call up any one of their customers with troubleshooting advice? Have they ever called me before? Is is sensible to think they can identify who is running my computer and can find a way to call me?”
The answer to all of the above is “No.” None of it makes sense.
Ask yourself those questions and then ask them to any caller who says they’ve found a problem with your computer.
Be skeptical! Be curious! Ask the questions and demand clear, sensible answers.