Today is Data Privacy Day, an opportunity to raise awareness among internet users of the importance of protecting their privacy online. Here’s a reminder of the basic steps you can take to safeguard your personal data, whether stored at home or online.
Choose passwords carefully
Too often overlooked, choosing the right password is of paramount importance. There are two rules you should always follow: never use the same password twice on two different services or sites, and always opt for a complex combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters.
Note that some web browsers now suggest sophisticated passwords generated by default, and that there are many programs (password managers) that enable you to systematically update them on all your devices.
Use two-factor authentication
It’s highly recommended that online users activate two-factor authentication, which involves adding at least one additional step to logging in to an account. This can take several forms, such as a code sent by SMS or a personal question.
This way, even if your password gets cracked, hackers won’t be able to access your account.
Clean up your device
Whatever your device – computer, smartphone or tablet – it’s a good idea to sort through your applications on a regular basis and delete those you never use.
You should also regularly clear the cache (temporary information can be deleted without risk) of other applications.
Never skip updates
Whether for the operating system or applications, updates should be carried out systematically and as soon as possible. In addition to adding new features, they usually correct security flaws.
Take care when using public WiFi networks
As far as possible, it’s best to avoid logging in to an online account (email, social networks, shopping site, bank, etc.) when using public WiFi networks, such as on public transport or in hotels.
Backing up is the ultimate weapon
All the content stored on your devices – work or administrative documents, family photos, vacation videos, emails, and so on – should be backed up so it is not lost forever in the event of piracy, theft, loss or accident. You can opt for either a hard disk or online backup.
For a computer, it’s best to back up your entire hard drive. This solution also offers the advantage of being able to restore everything from your backup disk in the event of technical failures.
Be careful, however, not to store this backup disk with your computer, which would defeat the purpose in the event of theft or accident.
There is a wide range of software available to help you make a backup copy of your drive. Windows has its own dedicated tool (Backup), as does macOS (Time Machine).
For smartphones and tablets, it’s best to opt for a cloud-storage service, where you simply log in and back up. Android users can opt for Google One, and iPhone users for iCloud.
Find out if your details have been compromised
Despite taking all these precautions, no one is entirely safe from having their data hacked or stolen. To find out if your phone number or email address has been compromised, simply go to the Have I Been Pwned website. It lists all the latest data reported stolen.
Just type in your email address to find out if you’ve been affected. If so, don’t panic! It doesn’t necessarily mean that sensitive data is circulating online, but simply that your login is part of a leaked list.
In all cases, you should immediately change the passwords concerned, even if the data breach dates back several months or years.