Ensuring your privacy

After seeing the rise in data breaches, misuse of personal data by social media platforms, increased spyware attacks, and incidents of Zoom bombing, ensuring data privacy has become a top priority for most users. If you are looking to keep your data private, these five recommendations are well worth the effort.

Check privacy settings

Whether you use a PC or Mac, iPhone or Android, each platform gives you some control over the information you share. Since everyone uses their device in different ways, there’s no blanket recommendation for which settings to turn on or off.

Review your settings, and if you don’t need a feature, turn it off.

For example, if you rely on Cortana, Siri, or any other voice-activated digital assistant, you clearly need to have voice recognition turned on. But if you don’t use the assistant, you likely want to turn off voice recognition given the potential for misuse.

Similarly, you should review and limit which applications have permission to access details such as your location, contacts and calendar etc.

Disable notifications on your lock screen

While we’re talking about privacy settings, it’s important not to make the sensitive information we receive on our mobile devices easily read. An often overlooked precaution is disabling the lock-screen notifications on your smartphone. Yes, the lock screen will prevent prying eyes from getting into your phone, but those notifications allow your text messages to be read by anyone who happens upon your phone.

Turning notifications off on an iOS device simply means going to Settings > Notifications > Show Previews where you’ll have the choice of having those messages appear or not. On an Android device, you’ll find the choice under Settings > Lock screen > Notifications.

Again, since everyone uses their devices differently, you’ll have to balance the convenience of seeing your notifications quickly against your desire for privacy.

Beware of infostealer malware

Staying vigilant to avoid scammers is always important, but since crisis situations like the coronavirus pandemic bring greater cybercrime activity, it’s worth a timely reminder. That vigilance will pay off since hackers are trying to leverage the pandemic with new attacks that layer infostealer malware on top of ransomware.

Infostealers are a type of Trojan that gather valuable information such as login credentials, screenshots, network activity, and user keystrokes – enabling cybercriminals to capture and exploit banking information, email accounts and credit cards etc.

Since infostealer infections are typically delivered via spam or malicious websites, being wary of clicking suspicious links and opening unknown attachments is the best defense.

Embrace Encryption

A key element of data protection and privacy is encryption because it protects your data if someone gains access to it – either accidentally or maliciously. That person won’t be able to read your sensitive information if it’s encrypted using a strong encryption algorithm like AES-256 before first decrypting the data.

Yes, a VPN can keep your online activity private with encryption protocols to ensure that attacks such as network sniffing cannot intercept data that is in transit, such as passwords and credit card numbers, etc. But you may want to use password protected encryption for all of your data – whether it is in transit, in storage, or at rest. That’s because if the hacker is using a network sniffer that is itself encrypted the you most likely won’t detect it – but your data privacy will still be assured.

Secure Zoom meetings

Today, we rely on videoconferencing applications for both work and pleasure. But their sudden popularity presents a host of new security risks. Typically a single call involves multiple people connecting from home and personal devices over unsecured networks. Security training for attendees may be spotty, and an IT professional certainly isn’t around to enforce security policies. Cybercriminals can eavesdrop on unsecured home Wi-Fi networks. Bogus meeting invites and online ads can steer users to malicious websites that deliver drive-by malware downloads.

Zoom has actively been updating their security options in the wake of attacks, so be sure to take steps such as requiring passwords to join meetings, use randomly generated meeting IDs, authenticate users and enable Waiting Rooms so you can screen attendees. That will reduce the opportunities for bad actors to attend, listen in, and collect valuable information you’d rather keep private.

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