As more facets of modern life have migrated online, tech companies have figured out ways to cash in. These companies collect users' personal data, behaviors, and insights to sell ads or information to third-party companies.
It can be shocking to learn how much money has been made using your personal information without your consent. Many savvy iPhone owners and Internet users remain unaware of this fact of 21st century life.
It is important to rely on a personal IT strategy to govern your participation in this economy. As more of your data is collected and sold, practicing good digital hygiene can protect the integrity of your digital identity.
You may wonder: what is digital hygiene and how can I incorporate it into my daily practices to protect my personal data?
Digital hygiene is a general term for the habits and behaviors surrounding your online presence, electronic devices, and digital assets. Too frequently these resources are used without much thought regarding privacy. Bad actors often exploit this attitude to obtain sensitive information, while tech companies use lax behaviors to turn a higher profit.
Individuals practicing good digital hygiene have more agency over their online assets. Having a firm handle on your data, who has access to it, and how it is used can prevent shocking revelations or serious issues in the future.
As big tech companies continue to multiply, evolve, and insinuate themselves into our daily lives, it’s important to put certain habits in place to protect your information. Building your digital survival kit with different tools and behaviors can help you practice good digital hygiene.
Below, we’ve listed some essential practices to protect your online assets.
As the reach of tech companies has encroached into daily life, privacy minded developers have created many tools to protect and empower the individual.
A virtual private network, or VPN, masks your IP (Internet Protocol) address so that your online activity becomes untraceable. These are especially useful when using public WiFi networks, as they protect your actions from other users. VPNs also obscure your location from tracking data and surveillance.
Companies like Brave, TOR, and DuckDuckGo promise to respect their users’ data and allow them more control over their Internet usage. These privacy focused browsers emphasize that your data is not being collected and sold to third-parties like it is with the ubiquitous Google Chrome.
Strong and varied passwords are a simple yet important line of defense between your information and a bad actor, but the more accounts you create, the harder it can be to keep up with everything. Password managers like Dashlane help you level up your password game by generating strong passwords and saving them in one location.
As many activities have moved exclusively online, people have gained trust in the medium, freely inputting and posting personal information daily. It can be beneficial to incorporate certain precautionary habits into your digital life to protect your online identity and physical self.
It can be shocking to see how much information people post online for public consumption: photos, birthdates, addresses, and much more. These pertinent pieces of information can give bad actors lots of ammunition to access your personal information and cause damage.
Since everything on the Internet lives forever, even after it is deleted, using discretion when posting on social media protects you now and in the future. You may think you’re posting something for your small group of Facebook friends, but anything can be shared without your knowledge.
It’s not a good idea in general to have your birthday, email, phone number, or address public and widely accessible. This level of personal information can be used against you in nefarious ways.
Using public WiFi can make you more vulnerable to attacks, as the activity is not on a secure, encrypted network. This means anyone on the same network can access and see what you are doing.
While you may be comfortable reading the news on public WiFi, you should proceed with caution when doing other activities. Entering personal information, using credit cards, or accessing sensitive data should be avoided if possible. If you must use public WiFi for these activities, always use a VPN.
You should also avoid any website marked as unsecure. This means a website that is vulnerable to malware or ransomware attacks, where your information has a higher risk of being accessed.
Many browsers will warn you are about to visit unsecure websites with a warning message or lock symbol near the address bar. Websites should always begin with https rather than http. Always check that your browser and network are secure before you enter sensitive data like your SSN or credit card information. This helps you avoid malware or ransomware attempts.
Single sign on (SSO) between applications and accounts are incredibly convenient but also pose big security risks. Often, certain websites will allow you to log in to their site with your existing Google or Apple account. However, this means a security breach in one account would mean a security breach in the others.
Creating separate accounts for any service you use is ultimately the safer option, though it is less convenient. In the case of a security breach on one website, less of your information is available.
It can be scary to find out how much of your information is online, but it’s best to look into the abyss and see what’s out there. Researching the tools you are using and how much of your information is public is a good place to learn about your data use.
How much of your information are you comfortable with tech companies collecting and using? By researching the services you are using, you can quickly learn about how your data is being collected and what it is being used for. This is ultimately a journey to protect yourself and empower your data usage, so doing this research provides an often neglected but incredibly insightful background.
Running a background check and credit report lets you keep tabs on your online profiles and which information is associated with you. This way you can check for suspicious activity, identity thieves, or potentially damaging information.
Participating in digital spaces means your information is being collected. Practicing good digital hygiene means that you can protect the integrity of your identity online and have more agency over who has access to your data. Since online interconnects all types of people, this can positively impact the greater digital landscape.
At Vudu, we are technology wizards who want to bring IT magic to your business and achieve supernatural results. Do you want a digital survival kit? Tell us more about your goals.