Protect your identity online as Data Privacy Day approaches

ID-100128894Next Tuesday, Jan. 28 is Data Privacy Day. It’s an annual event created six years ago by the National Cyber Security Alliance to empower and educate people to protect their privacy and control their digital footprint.

Why is it important to protect your identity online? In 2012, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received nearly 290,000 complaints related to online crime and fraud, with a total of nearly $525.5 million in consumer losses.

From phishing emails to unsecure websites to smishing texts, technology can be a minefield for hackers and scammers. Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin urges consumers to be aware that both smartphones and computers are vulnerable to the same hackers, spammers and malware.

BBB has the following advice for protecting your information online and on your smartphone:

Computer:

  • Update your software. Your computer should have the latest anti-virus software installed, along with a secure firewall.
  • Shop on trustworthy websites. Check a seller’s reputation and record of customer satisfaction at bbb.org. Look for the “s” in https:// in the address box to ensure you’re shopping on a secure website.
  • Beware of phishing. Avoid clicking on links from emails sent from anyone you do not know, or if they appear suspicious.
  • Set strict privacy settings. Consider restricting access on social network profiles to only friends or family, or people you know. Avoid connecting with anyone on social networking sites who you are unfamiliar with.
  • Set strong passwords. Make sure all passwords, most importantly your passwords for online banking, social media accounts and emails are difficult to guess.

Smartphones:

  • Lock your phone. Add a unique security code to your phone to prevent thieves from accessing your data. Then, set your device to lock automatically when not in use for a specified time.
  • Update your operating system.  Regularly updating your phone closes security loopholes and other backdoors hackers can use to access your phone without your knowledge.
  • Beware of unknown apps and links. Do not download any apps or click on links in your email or social media pages without first researching the source. They may contain viruses, malware or spyware that can compromise your personal data.
  • Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi. If you choose to connect to an unsecured or public Wi-Fi network, do not enter passwords or access any personal data.
  • Turn Bluetooth off when you’re not using it. Scammers could use specialized software to intercept your Bluetooth signal and hack into your device. Make sure to turn Bluetooth off in your settings when you’re not using it.
  • Check your permissions. Check all of your apps to see what data they are accessing and revoke permissions for information those apps don’t need to properly operate.
  • Don’t respond to “smishing” texts. Like “phishing,” “smishing” schemers often pose as banks or lottery sweepstakes asking customers to contact them immediately about a pressing issue that needs to be discussed. Do not reply to unusual texts, or from numbers you don’t recognize. Erase the message immediately.
  • Erase old phones completely. If you’re selling, donating or recycling your old phone, ensure all your data is completely erased and the phone is returned to factory settings before letting it out of your possession.