How Can I Protect My Privacy Online?

October 4, 2010

As more people go online, thanks to sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Google, online privacy is becoming a growing concern for many people in Kentucky. There has been an increase in identity theft, thanks to computer malware (malicious computer software) and phishing (an attempt to trick people into giving out personal and financial information).

First 4 digits of a credit card
Image via Wikipedia

But rather than avoid the Internet completely, you can enjoy the web and everything it has to offer as long as you practice a few personal safety tips to protect your online privacy.

1. Don’t disclose personal information on Facebook.

The best way to keep people from finding out personal information online? Don’t put personal information online. It’s actually that easy. Do common sense things, like not posting that you’re going on vacation. If you want people to know about your vacation, tell them when you get home. If you don’t want people to know about the valuables in your house, don’t talk about the new HD TV you just bought.

2. Don’t use easily answered security questions on personal accounts.

A lot of personal information is easy to figure out, like your mother’s maiden name or your pet’s name (because you talked about your dog, Foofsie, on Facebook). But those are the kinds of security questions some websites still ask for. Someone posing as you can type in the information they figured out, and get access to your accounts. If you have to answer questions like this, don’t give the real answers. Make up answers you can keep track of.

3. Never trust emails claiming to be from your credit card company, your bank, or the government.

This is what I mean by “phishing.” You get an email from someone posing as your bank saying there’s an error with your account. They give you a link that takes you to a page that looks like your bank’s. You put in your account number and password, find a message that says everything is all right, and you go away satisfied, not aware you just gave a criminal your bank account information. Don’t follow links in the emails from anyone who you do financial business with. Type in the web address you already know and trust, and search for the page you need.

4. Pick a hard-to-figure password.

A lot of people use basic, easy-to-figure passwords like their children’s names, their birthday, or even something as easy to figure as “password.” Don’t do this. Pick a pass phrase, like “itwasthebestoftimesitwastheworstoftimes” or one that uses symbols and numbers instead of letters, like S!mplyTh3L@w (SimplyTheLaw, get it?).

5. Use a temporary credit card number.

If you’re going to do a lot of online spending at one time, like at Christmas, ask your credit card provider for a temporary credit card number with a predetermined spending limit. Use it only for those purchases, and then shut it off. This way, if someone gets hold of your credit card number, they can’t run it up past the predetermined limit, and it will soon be shut down if they get it and hold it for several months.

There are lots of other great resources online that can help you be more confident that your privacy won’t be compromised. But the best way to be confident it won’t is to make yourself smarter about using the web in the first place.

Have a privacy story you’d like to share to help our readers protect themselves? Drop us a line in the comments.

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{ 1 comment }

MrPrivacy October 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm

6. Use ThreadThat.com to share sensitive messages and files online with individuals or groups. All posts and files are encrypted while in-transit and while at-rest. This threaded messaging app is new and is free for life to anyone who creates an account in 2010. The only personal information collected by the site is an email address that is used only for notifications and confirmations. There are several privacy and security options like self-generated passkeys and two-factor login authentication.

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