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February 08, 2019

Privacy and Security on the Internet: 6 Steps to Protect Your Personal Information

internet_security

From Facebook data leaks to online bots working to steal personal information, it’s more important than ever to keep your personal data and identity secure. Take these basic steps to protect your privacy online:

  • Always sign out of your accounts and platforms
  • Use two-factor authentication when signing into an account
  • Use social media responsibly
  • Think before you share news articles or quiz results
  • Be wary of public WiFi
  • Update your home router

1. Sign out

As large online companies consolidate, it’s easier to sign in to one portal and be activated on many different platforms. For example, if you sign in to your Google account, you’re also in your YouTube account, your Gmail, your Google calendar, and all the other platforms Google owns.

Not having to sign in to every platform saves time, but convenience is not always in line with Internet privacy protection. Go the extra mile for privacy and sign out of each of your accounts every time you’re finished using them. Additionally, check the settings to limit each application’s connectivity to other platforms. You don’t want to sign in to one site only to have it unknowingly access other platforms you rarely or never use.

2. Use two-factor authentication

Always use two-factor authentication whenever possible. It’s an option for most online accounts, including Facebook, Google, Apple ID, Microsoft, Twitter, and Dropbox. Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, buttons up your accounts by requiring two distinct inputs to sign in.

First, you enter your password. Then you take a second step, which is usually to enter a code that is sent via text (or SMS) to your phone. You can set up an automated 2FA service, like Google Authenticator, Turn It On, or Duo Mobile, to handle this process. This keeps things consistent across all of your work, personal, and social platforms. Just make sure your phone is secure with a strong passcode to prevent hacking if it falls into the wrong hands.

3. Stay socially smart

When Facebook was launched to keep students at Harvard connected with each other, no one could have foreseen the global platform it would eventually become. To avoid any Internet privacy issues, use all your social media platforms responsibly.

Start with your profiles. While it’s nice to hear from old high school friends who find you online, think about what information — including date of birth, hometown, email address, and phone number — these apps need. Assume everything you enter into a social media profile could end up in the hands of marketers, large online merchants, and, yes, hackers.

4. Care what you share

Think before you click when it comes to what you share. Spreading fake news is not the only problem when you share an article; sharing articles can also leave your account — and in some cases your friends’ accounts — open to being mined for valuable data and information.

Consider the personal information you’re giving out before taking a quiz or playing a game. If a quiz asks for the street you grew up on or your mother’s maiden name, you’re willingly giving up the answers to some of the most common security questions needed for access to online platforms.

5. Be careful on public WiFi

If you’re using a public WiFi connection, such as one in a coffee shop or an airport, your device could be breached by others using the connection. If you must use public access WiFi, make sure you sign out of any applications when you’re done using them. Avoid signing in to any kind of financial accounts, such as online shopping or banking, until you’re on a secure connection. A better option is to set up a VPN (virtual private network), which you may already have available to you with your Xfinity Internet service. Learn more about setting up a VPN here.

6. Keep your router updated

Most people set up their home router and forget it, but outdated firmware or default settings could leave your network susceptible to hacking. Make sure your firmware is up to date, and regularly review the privacy controls, such as passwords and guest network settings, to keep everything safe.

Following these simple steps to protect your identity online will go a long way toward avoiding the giant headache that results from being a victim of online data theft.

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