Data Privacy Day May Be Over, but it’s Still Important to Protect Your Personal Information

Feb 2, 2017 6:00am

personal informationData Privacy Day (or Data Protection Day) is celebrated every January 28 in the U.S., Canada and some European countries to raise awareness of data privacy and promote the best practices in data protection, especially for personal information. Everyone is encouraged to observe measures to keep his or her own data protected. The theme of Data Privacy Day is “Respecting Privacy, Safeguarding Data, and Enabling Trust.” Despite the day being over, it’s still important to be aware of how you can protect your personal information and manage your privacy year-round.

So, how should we keep our personal information protected?

First of all, you need to understand that you have a role in protecting yourself from identity theft: managing your personal information is first and foremost up to you. That is why we must stay vigilant and protect ourselves from people who are after our personal information.

It’s also helpful to understand the value of our personal information – both to ourselves and to cybercriminals. According to Business Insider, here’s a quick look at what personal information goes for on the dark web, according to the report:

  • Bank credential: $1,000+ (6% of the total dollar amount in the account)
  • U.S. credit card with track data (account number, expiration date, name and more): $12
  • EU, Asia credit card with track data: $28
  • Hacking into a website: $100 to $300
  • Counterfeit social security cards: $250 and $400
  • Counterfeit driver's license: $100 to $150

We have come up with some tips to help keep your personal information secured. Follow them and you will be more protected than ever from identity theft.

Steps to Take Offline

Identity theft still happens outside the internet, so you will need to take offline security seriously. Put your financial documents and personal records in a locked drawer, cabinet or vault to keep others from coming into contact with them. Avoid bringing unnecessary documents or personal identification with you when on the go.

When disposing of documents, mail or other items containing your personal information – such as medicine labels and credit card applications and statements – shred them first.

Steps to Take Online

Identity theft is more common in the online realms nowadays. Not only is it easier to steal personal information online, but it also opens the door for stealing a lot of information in just one go, which makes it even more important to take steps to protect your data.

Don’t divulge your personal information to everybody. If you receive a message, call or email asking for personal information, ensure that you are dealing with a legitimate representative from a legitimate company. Ask questions to verify the authenticity of the transactions that require your personal information.

On your social media accounts, remember that what you post can last a lifetime, so share with care! Before you post something, consider what it reveals about yourself and/or others and who might see it. Also, make sure to regulary review the privacy settings of your social media accounts.

Check to make sure a website or app is secure (e.g., by looking for a lock or “https” in the URL at the top of your browser) before using it, and lock down your login by leveraging the strongest authentication tools available on your online accounts. Set strong passwords by making each password a sentence at least 12 characters long – and making them unique to each account.

When disposing of computers and mobile devices, wipe all your data, especially login information saved on your mobile web browsers. It’s better to wipe your browsers clean for extra precaution. Then factory reset your device. Be extra careful when selling your gadgets. There are cases when the new owners are able to recover data from the device and can use it to blackmail the previous owner.

Securing Your Social Security Number

Your Social Security number (SSN) is a truly important piece of identification, so make sure you protect it well. Only share your SSN with legitimate parties that require it, such as your employer or financial institutions. When you are asked for your Social Security number, first ask why it is needed, how they will use it, how they will secure it and if there is alternative information you can provide.

Keeping Your Devices Secured

Most of our activities are now dependent on devices. Here are some tips for securing your devices:

  • Install – and update – security apps

Anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spyware and firewall programs are your devices’ basic protection: keep your security software up to date to defend against cyber threats.

  • Beware of phishing emails, text messages and social media posts

Think before you click. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out – links in email, tweets, posts and online advertising are often how cybercriminals try to compromise your information. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or, if appropriate, mark it as junk.

  • Lock your devices

Do not leave your computer open or your mobile devices unlocked. Even if you’d only be gone for a while, make it a habit to lock your devices with strong passwords and/or touch identification.

  • Think twice before selling or donating your device

If you are planning to sell or give away your device, make sure that all your data is cleared. Factory reset your phone before handing out your device.

  • Privacy policies are there to be read

We usually just skip the whole privacy policy of software we install and websites we visit, but if you have the time, reading it is actually worth it. You will be able to check the permissions you are allowing programs to have through the privacy policy. You can scan it quickly and determine a few key items: 1) whether the company shares your personal information (and, if so, what choices you have), 2) whether the company shares nonpersonal information (and if so, what choices you have) and 3) whether you can opt out of information sharing for ad targeting (and how).

Take the Step, Stay Secured

Our above tips can help you keep your personal information secured, so follow them to protect yourself from identity theft. Cyber crooks are becoming more and more creative, but exercising caution will help ward them off. Check out the National Cyber Security Alliance’s Privacy Tips and STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ Tips and Advice for steps you can take year-round to protect your information.

About the Author

Kenneth Sytian is one of the leaders in web design in the Philippines. He has been designing websites and developing web apps for more than a decade. He is also a keen advocate of safe browsing habits, where he attends and gives talks to entrepreneur on web design, development and security.