What Are YOU Doing to Protect Your Online Privacy?

Americans are aware of the threats posed to their money, their dignity – even their safety – from online threats. Yet, most are doing nothing to protect their online privacy.

According to a new survey from Consumer Reports, 62% of online consumers in the U.S. have done nothing to protect their privacy on the Internet.

While last year’s retailer data breaches were well publicized, the threats they uncovered seem to have done little to prompt people toward taking more action to protect themselves – either online or offline – against the digital-age threats they face.

Most people don’t’ even know where they are most vulnerable. For instance, did you know that public WiFi networks are notoriously unprotected against hackers?

Free online access available from public WiFi at fast food restaurants, coffee places or professional offices may be convenient, but using it can be a great way to give thieves access to your personal data. Consider using HTTPS Everywhere — a Firefox, Chrome and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with major websites.

One of the simplest ways you can protect yourself is to block access to your most personal data by being careful where you store it, and by protecting it with effective, (read, hard to crack) passwords.

This is a tough one, since most people easily forget the kinds of complicated passwords that provide the best protection. Effective passwords are long-ish (eight character or more) combinations of letters, number and symbols – mixing upper and lower case letters – which add up to things that are nonsense.

By nonsense we mean passwords they have no relationship to your life. Using pet’s names, a child’s birthday or other easily-obtained information puts you at risk. So does using the same password for a bunch of different files and sites.

Also, writing down passwords is a no-no, since low tech hacking (read: Dumpster diving) is still the #1 way for thieves to get access to your data.

You need to use complicated, nonsensical passwords that you never write down. Easy, right? Well, no, it’s not – which is why the most popular password used is “1234.”

Consider using 1Passord, the password management software. 1Password generates decently-secure passwords and stores them in an encrypted file on your computer. For more sensitive passwords –like the ones you use for online banking – use Diceware to help you generate complex yet easy-to-remember passwords.

Above all, keep these threats in mind, and do something to protect yourself. Online data theft is on the rise, at an alarming rate. Protect yourself first by acknowledging the threats, and accepting that the companies you deal with every day are not doing enough to protect you. Then, do some simple things to increase your level of personal protection.


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