Living in the digital age, we enjoy the pleasant convenience of conducting all kinds of transactions online. We get to connect with friends, purchase everything, and even work online. The amount of accounts and login information we have may topple over servers and cause crashes if every single person on earth goes online. However, this trend towards a much more convenient and integrated way to connect all our information spells risking our personal security.
Peter Parker, the alter ego of Spider Man says, “With great power comes great responsibility. “This is a parallel to what we’d like to emphasize: With great online accessibility comes great responsibility. In every superhero story there will always be villains. They are the bad guys who will try to break into your accounts, steal your online identity and personal information to gain wealth and advantage. If robbers were as stealthy as digital hackers, then we wouldn’t know that someone has already intruded our homes ready to take every valuable thing they see.
As we increasingly dwell in our online presence, we divulge more and more private information that other people can feast on.
What is digital information? Digital information can be simply described as writing a personal essay about yourself on a piece of paper but this time, you put it online as you sign up for, let’s say, Facebook. As you delve deeper into the essay, you unknowingly expose more information-even those private ones you swore to keep secret just for fun. The same goes with your social accounts. Starting from your sign up date, you upload personal information little by little. Not only are you at risk of cyber theft but you also become vulnerable to stalkers the moment you create an account. The more things you post online, the more information you reveal about yourself.
Technology experts and online social security advocates have long pointed out the dangers of posting private information to online sites.
It’s likely that social media has grown to be a daily part of your life, but you don’t have to quit social media all together to keep your personal information safe online.
Here are some ways to help limit the amount of personal information you upload online to safeguard your personal security:
- First, don’t overshare on social networking sites. Many people commit this mistake, thinking that it’s absolutely fine to be undisguised. Think about it though, if you post too much information about yourself, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer safeguarding questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal data. So, consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people.
- Keep your passwords private, but remember that using one password for all your accounts is a definite no-no. Use strong passwords with a combination of upper and lowercase letters plus numbers with your accounts. Also, don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your username and password and remember to log off when you’re done. This way, it will be harder for a thief to get at your personal information if your device ever gets stolen.
- It’s always best to encrypt your data by keeping your browser secure. There are encryption softwares that scramble the information you share over the Internet so you can guard your online transactions. When a “lock” icon on your Internet browser’s status bar appears, it means that the information transmitted will be safe. Look for this lock before you send personal or financial data online.
- This goes without saying that you should also be aware of impersonators. Check that you know who’s getting your personal or financial information. Don’t just give out your information unless you’ve initiated the communication or know whom you’re dealing with.
- Wireless connectivity is probably one thing you can’t live without nowadays, but you should always be wise about using Wi-Fi, especially if you’re on a public wireless network. Before sending personal information over your device, always see if your information will be protected.
- It can be tedious, but it helps to read privacy policies. They tell you how the site maintains, controls, and uses the information that it collects—also whether they provide information to third parties.
- Lastly, when the time comes that you want to get rid of your laptop, tablet, smartphone, or any other information-storing device, make sure that you safely dispose of your personal information.
Keep in mind that even though websites that collect and use your information have the responsibility to protect them, you have the stronger duty of taking various precautions to protect yourself from identity fraud or the misuse of your personal information, and to make sure that your privacy is respected the way you want it to be. Doing things over the Internet offers conveniences and wider opportunities that’s why people value it sizably-but it’s not a one-way street. Taking a few simple precautions to safeguard your data may come as an inconvenience, but in the long run, it will benefit everyone.
Words by Mia Carisse Barrientos and Janelle M. Bustilla
Art by Cla Gregorio
First published in Gadgets Magazine, September 2013