In March this year, Apple fought with US Department of Justice about the privacy of the data of iPhone users. Later on, one of the most popular apps for communicating ,WhatsApp, has announced a new confidential policy.
In summary, the new policy states that all of the media and messages one shares via WhatsApp are now encrypted and no one, even the app team itself, can read them. The same thing applies to voice calls. Another thing WhatsApp did is that now the messages you send are not stored anywhere except your phone and the phone of the person you are talking to.
Why am I telling all this? Obviously, the problem of privacy on the Internet has been a huge deal over the last years. With the private pictures of celebrities revealed in 2015 and a recent release of face-recognizing apps, which allow finding people on social media just with one picture, the question pops up in one’s head – is there anything you can share and store without any risk?
When sharing something on the Internet, you automatically sign up for anyone in the world to see it and, moreover, use it without your permission. The pictures you post aren’t so big a problem, as you are completely aware of them being on the net, but what about phone numbers? Or something private you share via messages?
The main question is – how to protect your data, especially the most important ones, like your bank account and credit card information?
First of all, for the protection of your payment information, you can use websites such as PayPal and Skrill. They allow you to pay on most of the Internet shops without revealing your credit card number, etc. For example PayPal, in order to protect customers from fraud, verifies all information one provides with Payment Processors and Credit Reference and Fraud Agencies. Also, only PayPal and Skrill know your payment information. Both of the websites proved to be trustworthy, so it is a nice and easy way not to reveal your payment information to every website you use.
Secondly, you can install some special programs like security software, password protection schemes and encryption mechanisms, which will protect your laptop from the online criminals. Some of such programmes (for example BitLocker and VeraCrypt) allow you to encrypt the whole hard drive, so no one can read the files you store there.
Another advice I can give is to have two e-mails and use one for any social media websites and random subscriptions or registrations, and keep the other one for work, studying and personal communication. This way your inbox will never be overflowed and it will be easier and more pleasant to use.
One other good thing to do is to always switch off Bluetooth if you are not using it. Wireless services, like Wi-Fi in public places, can endanger your private data too.
Moreover, you can check to what data the apps on your phone have access to. You know, when you are installing a new game on your phone, or a new social media app, you are usually asked to agree to some terms and conditions and then give access to some information…Usually, we just don’t read what is written there and just press «approve». Well, sometimes we should read. Also, you can go to the settings on your phone and switch off the access the app has, most of the time the app is still working fine after that. However, this does not work for all phones.
Also, such services as iCloud, Dropbox or Evernote, which are basically an online storage of your information, can be easily hacked and accessed by others, so your information is no longer private.
Some people also offer more radical steps, for example, create a paid e-mail account, stop using social media and sharing your location. Sounds like too much, right? However, it does make sense, although I cannot imagine anyone giving up all social media for more security.
Finally, I want to say that the main basic thing one can do to protect their personal data on the Internet is not giving out your phone number, address, and other private information on random websites, which you are not sure of. Also, always log out and do not automatically save passwords on your computer to the most important websites (like your bank account), despite it being much more convenient.
To be honest, when delving deeper into this topic I understood that protecting your private data basically requires you to stop using anything on the Internet, which sounds impossible. Still, I did not find one universal step to make sure that your data is secure.
In general, I should say that following some steps mentioned above can minimize the risk of others getting access to your data to the minimum, however, none of these steps guarantees 100% security.