The Best Way to Protect Your Identity and Personal Information When Online

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Technology does us a lot of good – it helps us keep in touch with our loved ones, stay informed with the outside world, and educate ourselves on all sorts of topics. Unfortunately, the Internet can be a double-edged sword, because although it can bring us a lot of good, it can also bring down on us a lot of harm. Privacy is becoming more and more of a concern, as hackers (and even the government) come up with new ways to peer into our lives and find our sensitive data. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to keep your identity and information secure, and it doesn’t take a lot of work.

Keep Your Passwords Secret and Safe

You wouldn’t keep your house keys lying around places to be stolen, so why do you do it with your passwords? It’s understandable that with an ever-growing number of online services, it’s difficult to remember so many passwords. Don’t let this be an excuse for using the same password for every account. Your password should be complex (containing numbers, symbols, and upper- and lowercase letters) and different for each account. Can’t keep track of them all? Write them down on a piece of paper you won’t lose, preferably kept in a safe, fireproof space. Or, use a tested and trusted password management program, such as LastPass or KeePass, to make the passwords and remember them for you. Also, if you keep sensitive data on your phone, or you stay logged into banking apps and the like, make sure you keep your phone locked.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Just by complicating your passwords, you’re already miles ahead of many careless Internet uses. But, if you really want to kick things up a notch and make sure that no thief can get into your account–even if he knows your password!–enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts. Don’t be worried by the name, as you’ve probably seen it in action before. Two-factor authentication, which is sometimes shortened to 2FA, is a feature in which, upon logging into a service, you’re called or messaged with a second code that you have to input in order to get into your account. This ensures that, even if someone knows your password, they won’t be able to get in unless they also have your phone, which is unlikely. Have a look to see which online services you use allow you to enable 2FA. You’d be surprised how popular of an option this is.

Check Your Social Media Accounts

This should be common sense by now, but many people still live their online social lives in “public.” When you’re posting to online social networks, make sure that your account settings are set so that only your friends (or whomever you want seeing your posts) can see your musings. Even if you don’t see the harm in what you post, we all have regrets about things we said that seemed innocent at the time. So, head on over to your social network settings and set everything to private. Or, better yet, limit all possibly offensive speech to your private, offline life, as even posts set to private can still be copied, pasted, and turned into images. Remember, once something is online, it could be there forever.

Don’t Keep Sensitive Data in the Cloud

Just as you should watch what you say online, you should also keep an eye out for the data you store online, too. Cloud services, like Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud, are convenient in that they let you access your documents wherever you may be, but as we’ve seen the past, these services are prime targets for no-gooders. While there’s little harm in keeping family pictures and half-written novels stored online, you might want to think twice before keeping tax information stored on an online server. Leave those documents for the file cabinet at home.

Online safety, like insurance, is something that you might not think about until something bad happens. Don’t let this be you! It doesn’t take long to protect your online information, and following all the above advice is likely to only take an afternoon’s work. When considering the trade-off you’re making, that’s a short time very well spent.

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