When it comes to major data breaches, the hits just keep on coming. In April, Facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg testified before Congress about how the personal information of 87 million Facebook users was improperly shared with an analytics firm. And Yahoo! was just fined $35 million for failing to disclose a 2014 data breach in which personal information was stolen from 500 million Yahoo! user accounts.
Of course, these latest announcements come on the heels of last year’s Equifax data breach in which personal information belonging to 143 million Americans was exposed to hackers. Whole Foods, Saks Fifth Avenue, Delta Airlines and Best Buy are other major businesses that have reported data security breaches since early 2017.
Tech Tips for Data Protection
Given the vulnerability of our personal information, it’s critical to take steps to protect your and your family’s sensitive personal information from hackers and data thieves. In particular, there are some data protection steps you can take with regard to how you use technology.
Here are 8 technology tips that can help you safeguard your personal data:
- Install operating system and software updates when prompted. Many people ignore prompts to upgrade their operating system or software, or put it off and then forget about it. But these updates usually include critical security patches designed to protect your computer from the latest viruses and malware. One solution is to automate your operating system and software updates. Go into your computer settings to see if “automatic updates” is an option and if it is, consider turning it on.
- Encrypt data on removable storage devices. USB drives and SIM cards can be extremely vulnerable when it comes to putting personal information at risk. By encrypting this data, you’ll make it much harder (though not necessarily impossible) for data thieves to access the information that’s on them if they’re ever lost or stolen.
- Secure your wireless network. If you have a home wireless network, make sure it’s secured with a hard-to-guess password. Not only will this keep neighbors from piggybacking on your network for free Wi-Fi, but it will also help keep hackers from using your Wi-Fi connection to try to steal your personal information. You can also hide your wireless network so it doesn’t show up on others’ computers and mobile devices when they’re searching for a network. To do so, set up your wireless access point so that it doesn’t broadcast your network name, or your Service Set Identifier (SSID).
- Configure the app privacy settings on your mobile devices. Most apps feature privacy settings you can use to determine how much and what kinds of information are stored or shared. Adjust these settings when you first set up your new device so that your apps are storing and sharing as little personal information as possible.
- Disable Bluetooth if you’re not using it. Many people have become dependent on Bluetooth technology to conveniently connect their mobile devices to speakers and talk on their devices hands-free. This is fine, but take a few seconds to turn off the Bluetooth connection when it’s not being used. This will eliminate the possibility that data thieves can hack into your device via your Bluetooth connection.
- Customize your social network privacy settings. The importance of this step has become more apparent in light of the recent Facebook data breach revelations. Go into the privacy settings of all social media networks you participate in and choose the highest level of privacy that’s available for the sharing of your personal information. Better yet, be highly selective about what personal information you share on social media in the first place. While it’s fun to share things about your family and activities with friends on social media, it may not be wise to share too much detailed information that hackers and thieves could use to steal your identity.
- Use caution when installing new apps. Many people have also become dependent on a wide variety of apps for everything from getting directions to doing their banking. While they can increase convenience, some apps can install malware on your device or share your personal information without you even knowing about it. Only install apps from sources that you’re 100 percent sure are trustworthy and safe.
- Be careful when shopping in public on your laptop computer, mobile phone or tablet. Laptops and mobile devices have made it easy to shop online from anywhere at any time. But beware of prying eyes if you decide to make purchases outside the comfort of your home or office. Eavesdroppers might be peeking over your shoulder to steal your passwords, credit card data or other sensitive financial information.
Layer Your Data Protection
In today’s environment, you can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting your sensitive personal information. Consider putting these technology tips into practice to provide additional layers of data protection for you and your family.