Identity theft is a serious crime, but how can you secure your online identity and prevent that? We hear lots of stories about different types of personal data thefts each day. No matter what it is – media leaks, banking info, biometrical data – it is important to keep your personal information secure. Identity theft-related crimes cost more than $50B per year.
Companies around the world spend an incredible amount of money to prevent any kind of data leaks or data thefts. However, what can a regular internet user do in order to feel safe while browsing the internet?
This article’s purpose is to introduce you to the main treats while browsing the internet. We’ll also try to quickly brief you about the possible damage you could receive if you’d not take any action. You shouldn’t be paranoid, but it is always better to be safe than sorry, right?
1. Keep your personal information to yourself
This might sound primitive, but it sure seems that lots of people forget where they submit their personal information (e.g. banking info, address, family info). Just to let you know, there are only a few cases where you actually need to put your real personal information: banking page, work or medical-related sites.
Nowadays, there are lots of scam/phishing websites where cybercriminals collect random people’s information by lying about the real purpose of the site. One of the most common cases is fake lottery sites, where sometimes you even need to submit a copy of your passport. That’s just nonsense!
You’re asking: what can a cybercriminal do with my personal information such as street name, address, birth date? Believe me – they can do a lot. Example: sensitive information is commonly used to protect various social media accounts. By knowing any kind of private information, it is super easy to reset your password or steal any kind of account. By the way, why would you want a complete stranger to know where exactly do you live or what is your mother’s name? We’re not even speaking about banking or medical information thefts…
2. Pay attention to your password strength
Password difficulty and strength are some of the most important things when you are registering for a new platform. Basically, there are two main rules that you have to follow whenever creating or thinking of a new password:
1) The password should be unique and it should NOT overlap with other websites where you have an account. Of course, having lots of information in your head is difficult, but we’ll speak on how to solve this issue just a little bit later.
2) Do not use the most popular passwords. There officially is a list of most commonly used passwords. Take a look here. Maybe you’ll find your own password here as well?
We also prepared a very basic guide on how to create a perfectly safe and strong password. It should not contain any of this information:
- First or names
- Birth dates/months
- Pet names
What is a strong password? A strong password consists of at least seven characters (of course, the more symbols you have, the stronger it is). You should also include at least one upper case letter, a number and a symbol such as @, #, &, ! or any other you prefer.
And finally, how to remember all the passwords you created? It’s simple! Last year, password manager applications became really popular. A password manager is simply a wallet for all the passwords and accounts you created in one place.
3. Secure browsing
Nowadays, where public Wi-Fi available in lots of open spaces, it became really popular to steal data through unsecured internet networks. Of course, you should always have your Firewall on, but that is not enough.
If you’d ask what is the way to completely protect yourself if you are using the internet through a public Wi-Fi connection, the answer is simply don’t. The best option is to use your mobile device as a hotspot. However, if you don’t have a device with mobile data besides, there is another option of what you can do in order to minimize the risk of being hacked: use a VPN. If you don’t know what a VPN is, you can read our complete VPN guide right here. It is a great tool that not only helps you to prevent snoopers while browsing the internet, but it also allows you to by-pass geo-restrictions or changes your public IP.
Our TOP 3 best-recommended VPN’s:
4. Safe shopping
E-commerce is booming and lots of shopping is done online. Before you insert your credit card details, make sure the site is reliable and is taking care of your safety. One of the most important factors is that a secure e-commerce shop MUST have an SSL certificate installed. You can easily check that without any tools, simply take a look at the address bar. All SSL secured sites have a “lock” symbol right beside its address. Here is a visualization of how does it look in real life:
Also, spend at least a few minutes to do research about the store you’re about to spend your money in. There are lots of review sites and other factors (e.g. supported payment providers) which will allow you to make sure that the website is legit. We recommend doing the check at trustpilot.com, as companies can’t edit, delete or fake comments out there.
5. Be aware of what kind of data is collected
Nowadays, different internet service, game or app providers are constantly looking for ways to monetize their traffic. We are used to the fact that developers outlast by just selling their actual product. However, this has changed a few years ago. Advertising through their products became a good source of revenue and now some of the tech companies even provide free software just to collect as big user base as possible. Why? To collect the data and to sell it for more cash than the actual app would cost.
As reading privacy policies and terms is a boring activity, we definitely suggest you look at the app/service subscription. It must say what kind of data is logged and stored, so you will be aware of what kind of risk you’re putting yourself into.
These are the five basic steps on how you can secure your personal information and reduce the risk of identity theft. Unfortunately, no one is 100% safe and you never know when could bad things happen. However, you should definitely do what it takes from your side to secure your personal information.