How to Stay Private in a Connected World – Part I: Start with the basics

Password Safety We were recently asked by Ottawa Victim Services for tips for staying safe and anonymous online. Follow our three part series to learn more! 

We live in a world that offers amazing services like Facebook, Gmail and others at no financial cost to the end users. These services offer tremendous value to our day-to-day lives and help keep us connected. What you need to remember, especially in the world of the Internet, is that free always comes at a cost and that cost is usually your privacy.

Those end user license agreements (EULA for short) we agree to by simply clicking “next” during the sign-up process typically allow the application provider free reign with any data they can get access to. In most cases it’s harmless and used to better personalize the advertisements you see while using the services, but in some cases that information is sold. I was shocked when I found out the flashlight app I installed on my phone the other day was tracking my GPS coordinates so it could sell its users’ locations to potential retailers.

Whether you fear that the NSA is spying on you or you just want be online anonymously, every person has the right to their privacy. Many of our younger staff could care less, but an old fogey like myself (maybe with more secrets to hide) likes to know I’m surfing without being watched. Here are a few tips to staying private online:

Start with the Basics 

Many old IT pros will tell you that at the end of the day most major security breaches are caused by social engineering, i.e. being convinced that someone has the authority to ask for your personal details when they really don’t need them. So here are a few steps to start with:

Store your passwords offline: I like to keep my list of passwords on paper at home. Some people use applications like Password Safe to store their passwords but I prefer not having them digitally.

Passwords: Keep your online password complex (at least 8 characters long, no real words and they should contain symbols) and don’t use the same password twice. Test your password here: https://howsecureismypassword.net/. 

Change your passwords frequently: We recommended that most of our clients change their passwords a minimum of every 90 days. If you press CTRL, ALT and Delete on your keyboard in Windows you’ll have the option to change your password.

Don’t share your information online: If you’re going to stay private, keep your personal information to yourself and never indicate on Facebook or other social sites where you are or if you’re leaving. Most apps or websites only need your valid email address so use fake names and be creative!

HTTPS is a must: When surfing the web look for the HTTPS version of the site if it’s available. All HTTPS does is protect the information going from your computer to the website you’re using to prevent snooping.

Antivirus: Many times our information is stolen by malware or viruses running on our own systems. Always make sure your antivirus is up-to-date. Microsoft has a nice and easy to use antivirus you can grab here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/download/details.aspx?id=5201

Stay tuned tomorrow for “Keep Snoopers Guessing”Part II of our online safety series! 

Post by Mathew Lafrance, President, Grade A

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