For those who work in public safety, extensive thought is not often given to protecting online privacy. We tend to focus more on physical threats. However, in this day and age, internet cyber security is becoming more of a threat. This doesn’t only affect large corporations. It’s not a very real threat to us as individuals and we need to take it seriously. In this post, I’ll offer suggestions for how to protect your online privacy and will explain a bit about what cyber security professionals do. That said, you don’t need to be a professional cyber security consultant to take control of your online privacy.
What Are the Most Common Cyber Security Threats?
According to Rob Holmes of IP Cybercrime, one of the most prevalent threats in the corporate realm is in copyright theft and counterfeiting. IP Cybercrime is based in Plano, TX and is run by brothers Rob and Jason Holmes, the sons of New Jersey State Trooper Bob Holmes. IP Cybercrime is a boutique firm specializing in corporate cyber security incidents such as data leaks, hack prevention, intellectual property theft, and a whole host of other issues.
Unfortunately, corporations aren’t the only targets of online threats. As individuals, we’re constantly being bombarded with phishing scams, notifications of our personal data having been leaked by those corporations we trust, identity theft, credit card theft, and much more. With all of these threats, what can individuals do to protect their online privacy?
How to Protect Your Online Privacy
There are a number of things that we as individuals can and should do to protect our online privacy. I’ll detail several here.
Use a Password Generator Application
It’s extremely important to have strong passwords. The days of using your birthday combined with your dog’s name are over. You need to be using 16 digit passwords with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Also, you should have a different password for every login AND you should change your passwords on a regular basis.
If all of this sounds incredibly difficult, don’t worry. There’s an easy way to generate and keep track of all of those passwords. I use an app called 1Password. It’s available for Mac or Windows, and iOS or Android. You only need to keep track of one password, which you’ll use to unlock the app. The app will generate passwords for all of your logins using whichever format you choose (number of digits, number of letters vs numbers, whether to include symbols, etc). You’ll then just copy and paste the password from the app to whichever login you’re accessing. The app will back up and sync across your devices via Dropbox, which makes it very easy. 1Password is relatively inexpensive and very easy to learn. I consider it essential to security my online privacy.
Use a VPN Whenever You’re Accessing Private Information In a Public Place
A VPN (virtual private network) gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. It will mask your IP address so your online actions are virtually untraceable. This is especially important if you need to log into your email or bank account while sitting in your favorite coffee shop.
I like to use the VPN service called ExpressVPN. It’s very reasonably priced, easy to use, and doesn’t slow down your connection too much. This will make it more difficult for someone on the same network to access your data in a public place. I also use ExpressVPN when I travel to China as Google and Facebook are blocked there. This is how most people get past the “Great Firewall”.
Place a Freeze on Your Accounts With the Major Credit Bureaus
This one can be a major pain in the butt, though it’s incredibly helpful. You can do this online by visiting the websites for TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. This blocks anyone (including yourself) from taking out any credit in your name. This means that whenever someone (including you) wish to take out a loan, apply for a credit card, or anything which requires pulling your credit report, it will be denied and you’ll be contacted by the credit bureau being used. If you need to do anything which requires accessing your credit report, simply contact the agencies and lift the credit freeze temporarily. It’s a pain, but it’s effective. It’s also easy and free.
What Does Rob Holmes Recommend?
Rob Holmes of IP Cybercrime was interviewed on the Legal IQ Podcast and this is what he had to say.
Cyber Security Summary
This may all seem like a daunting task, especially if you’ve not given cyber security much thought, but it’s absolutely essential nowadays. Try to take on each of these online privacy tips one week at a time and soon you’ll be well on your way to protecting your online privacy. We spend so much of our time assessing physical threat levels, but in today’s world, we need to give internet cyber security just as much consideration.