If data security is not in your New Year’s Resolutions for 2019 – you should make it one.
There has been a rise of data breaches in the past few years, and it’s time we woke up to its dangers. In the 21st century, our personal data is like oil. It’s the social lubricant that makes us feel connected with families and friends online, but it’s also the information companies want to monetize and nefarious online agents want to weaponize to spread fear and hatred.
Above all of this, our data belongs to us. While there are legitimate business concerns around GDPR (the EU data privacy regulation) – in particular for SMEs – it is also a step in the right direction to return the power back to individuals.
Americans are behind on the data curve. We have not gotten outraged that our data is being misappropriated without consent, yet people voice concern when pop-up ads appear on their phone for a gadget they were just talking about with their friend on the phone.
Remember in March 2018 when Cambridge Analytica was able to analyze 87 million Facebook users data through a third party app?
Remember when Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s admitted that personal information of their online customers (like credit card details) were exposed? This has happened to Sears, Addida’s, Best Buy, Delta, and so many other companies. It’s pretty shocking how exposed our personal data is in today’s age of technology.
This issue really came home to me when my instagram got hacked last year.
I never thought it would happen to me because I don’t have millions of followers. Truth is, it can happen to anyone. Hackers pick accounts by random, and there has been a notable increase of attacks on Instagram given its growing community.
When my instagram got hacked, I felt totally helpless. It happened last November, when I got an email from firstname.lastname@example.org notifying me that they’ve hacked my account.
If this happens to you, do not respond to the hackers. Contact Instagram and notify them of the issue. The process can take some time to recover your account, but it is usually possible. I was lucky because I had a friend that works at Instagram who was able to help me resolve the hack and restore my account quickly.
My Instagram account got hacked and so can yours.
Therefore, here are a few tips to ensure your account can be more secure.
Use two-step authentication for all of your log-in details. Most platforms have this option now, but it’s not the default so you have to opt-in in your settings.
You can go one step further and use a time-based one-time password algorithm app like Google Authenticator. There are loads of varieties of these apps, and they link to your account and generate a random code every time you access the account that you type in.
When I set-up two-step verification, almost within the same week, I got notified that someone with a Cyrillic e-mail account was trying to access my Instagram. Because of this safeguard, they were not able to, but it reinforced the need for me to ensure I was taking my online security seriously.
I’d also recommend regularly updating your passwords for your various accounts. I’ve decided to do this on an annual basis. At the start of this year, I went through all my different accounts and changed their passwords. This will take some time because there are a lot of different platforms you probably never thought about it. For example, I even changed my password for my Pandora and Spotify accounts – even though it’s very unlikely anyone would want to access my account.
To create a strong password, I’ve used randomized password generators, and I also create passwords that are full, complex sentences that would be hard to crack.
When I reset all my passwords, I also went through the settings to review my privacy settings. Many platforms allow third-party apps to see the data. I went through and removed any third-party apps that I was not familiar with and also logged all devices out of my accounts.
It is annoying to have to sign back into your various accounts on your different devices, but it’s worth the extra precaution to ensure old devices that you may no longer be using do not have access to your accounts.
True story – I found out my old IPad that I had given away was still accessing my ITunes account.
So here is the skinny, protect your data.
- Update your password to something strong, using a combination of at least six numbers, letters and punctuation marks (like ! and &). It should be different from other passwords you use elsewhere on the internet. It can be a full, complex sentence so it’s easy for you to remember but hard to crack.
- Set-up two-step verification on your account.
- Use a time-based one-time password algorithm app like Google Authenticator.
- Check all third-party apps linked to your account.
- Unlog yourself from your account on devices you do not recognize. (Both steps 4 & 5 can be done within the platform in your security settings.)