Your personal data is all over the internet. Your age, place of birth, names of your relatives, address history, and much, much more…
Beyond the simple intrusiveness this involves, this phenomenon raises concerns from an identity theft and online security standpoint. With it so easy to get someone’s personal data, hacking a bank or other account becomes easier. Many of you have likely heard how a Wired writer named Mat Honan had his digital life destroyed in a matter of minutes; if you haven’t heard this story, it’s worth reading: it’s an eye opener. If you’re a Mac user, have a Gmail account, or shop at Amazon, read it.
What can you do to keep your data more secure?
First, all the basics you’ve probably heard in the past do in fact apply:
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a firewall: Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Keep them up-to-date and check to ensure that your firewall is turned on.
- Use two factor authentication wherever you can – Gmail, Dropbox, WordPress, Facebook, and other sites, as available.
- Don’t use the same password for multiple sites ( !)
- Change passwords periodically
- Use robust passwords, employing special characters if possible
- When setting up security questions/answers on sites, answer the question as your wife or husband would. (For example, in answering “What is your mother’s maiden name?” I’d use my wife’s mother’s maiden name, making it much more difficult for someone to guess my answers).
- Don’t assume public “hot spots” are secure: Café, hotel and airport “hot spots” are convenient, but they are not secure.
- Be careful about the information you access or send from a public wireless network: You should assume other people can see anything you see or send over a public wireless network.
- Log out of your email account. If you’re checking your email at a public computer, make sure that you log out of your account when you’re finished. The next person who visits that website may be directed to your inbox, if you don’t.
- Never store passwords on a public computer. If the computer prompts you to save the password, click “No.”
What can you do to avoid having your personal data so readily available?
Removing your personal data from the web can be a bit more difficult. There are so many sites that sell personal data – Intelius, Spokeo, 123people.com, Radaris, peoplelookup, the list is quite extensive, – cleaning your data from them can be tedious.
I’ve written about Abine before; I continue to use their DoNotTrackMe to foil advertisers from tracking my online activity. I also have used Abine’s DeleteMe product for about two years now. This service periodically scours personal data sharing sites like those mentioned above, and removes my data:
Once a quarter, I receive a “Privacy Report” which shows my current status on 21 such sites; a small excerpt is shown below:
I spot check these sites once in a while, and my data NEVER shows up. The service is $129 annually, BUT if you’d like to work with the personal info sites yourself, Abine provides a handy little primer which includes contact information and specific instructions; here’s an excerpt:
Click here for these opt out instructions: How Your DeleteMe Operator Removes Your Data
To learn more about DeleteMe including subscription options, click here: Abine DeleteMe
Whatever you do, please use some common sense when it comes to online security and protecting your data.
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