As the Internet of Things (IoT) gains traction, a lot of personal information is stored on electronic gadgets and on the cloud. In spite of the convenience offered by digital storage, electronic data could be easily stolen or accessed by malicious third parties. The loss of personal data could threaten the safety of you and your family members. People have incurred severe financial losses and unnecessary legal trouble due to the theft of their personal data. By following the 9 steps detailed below, you’re guaranteed to avoid the major cyber-security risks and keep a strong on how your data is shared.

1. Use Firewalls

Antivirus software is not sufficient to protect your data hackers or other threats to cyber-security. Using firewalls will help in preventing your personal data from falling into the wrong hands. While antivirus software gives protection against software that is already installed on your computer, firewalls block harmful packages, executables and spyware even before they could infect your Mac or PC. Various companies offer firewall systems for a small price; premium versions of popular antivirus software also have embedded firewall solutions.

One thing to remember is that hardware-based firewalls offer better protection from hackers than software-based firewall systems. Hardware-based firewalls now pre-installed with the latest generation ofWiFirouters. You can buy routers with embedded firewall systems to protect your data even more.These should be complemented by using virtualisation of the network or other technologies; such platforms would render your home network impenetrable.

2. Use Passwords on All Your Devices

Use passwords on all your devices, including laptops and mobile phones. Mobile devices often get stolen, and thieves can get instant access to your data if your accounts are easy to log in to. If you find it annoying to remember multiple passwords, use alternative authentication systems such as fingerprint sensors and pattern locks to safeguard these gadgets. Another suggestion is to use password storage software or mnemonic techniques to keep track of the different passwords.

3. Use Difficult Passwords

Use difficult passwords for your computers, emails, and social media accounts. Using alphanumeric characters along with special characters in your passwords will make them stronger. Another simple way to build complex passwords is by using ‘passphrases’ in the place of one or two-word passwords. Passphrases such as‘ivisitedangolainjuly2016’ are simpler to remember but cannot be guessed easily by hackers. Just remember to use different passwords for different devices and online accounts! Using multiple passwords will limit your losses in case your system or email accounts are hacked.

Use Difficult Passwords

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4. Use Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication has become popular with banks and stockbrokers to protect the accounts of their customers. Two-factor authentication requires a second verification step such as a personal identification number (PIN) or an authentication code sent to your mobile phone to access online accounts. This system makes it almost impossible for hackers to access your primary data even when your main password is compromised.

Technology companies, including Google, now offer apps such as Google Authenticator to protect the users of their service. You can install these apps to enable two-step verification for logging into your account. Authenticator apps available on popular software platforms including Android and iOS such asAuthy and Duo Mobile could also be used to setup two-factor authentication for your mail and social media accounts.

5. Update Your Software Regularly

Update your software regularly to safeguard personal data stored on your devices. Software that needs regular upgradesincludes operating systems, mobile wallets, and other applications installed on your desktop computer and mobile phone. Software developersoften release new patches and features specifically to address the latest cybersecurity threats. You can even enable automatic updates for your devices so that you never miss a beat in the evolution of cyber-security.

6. Never Install Unknown Applications

Malicious software is often attached to emails and automatically downloaded on your device when you click on links online. Never install any unknown software on your desktop computer or mobile phone. Check for the details of the ‘.exe’ files before clicking on them. Moreover, check the access permissions required by any mobile app before installing them on your phone. Mobile apps can easily access your personal data, such as phone contacts, location information, and images. One cause for concern is when an app is asking for access to data that is not required for its functioning. Checking the ratings given by other users and reviews on popular blogs can help in avoiding malicious applications.

7. Encrypt Your Data

Encryption is not a geeky term but a very important method for improving security.You can now encrypt data using several publicly available tools. Encryption will help in protecting your personal data when your files get into the wrong hands and when your emails are intercepted by hackers before they reach the recipient. Files stored on your computer and attached to emails could be encrypted without the need for high-end technical knowledge. Technology companies are now providingencryption software along with the hardware and software sole by them. Apple’s latestOS X operating system has built-in disk encryption programmed called FileVault that can encrypt data stored on Mac’s disk. Take advantage of such latest software to protect your personal data.

8. Take Care Before Disposing of Your Gadgets

Your old and unused computers and mobile phones will have a lot of personal data stored in them. Make sure that the data is erased before you dispose of them. Hard drives of your personal computers could be made unreadable by physically shredding them or using softwareto wipe the disk clean. Similarly, delete data on your mobile phones by ‘factory resetting’ them before disposing of or exchanging them for new gadgets. Make sure to back up all the data before you dispose of your gadgets.

9. Secure Your Wireless Network

Unsecured wireless networks in your home can be accessed by anyone with basic technical skills. A basic step to secure your wireless networks is setting a password. Password secured wireless networks will be off-limits for your neighbours and hackers. Sharing your files publicly on your wireless network should be occasional and for a limited time period. Whenever you do not need other people to access your files, disable file and media sharing. A more robust security of your wireless network could be achieved by configuring your wireless access point in such a way that it stays hidden from unauthorised individuals.

Secure Your Wireless Network

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10. Delete Cloud Backups

Cloud backup of personal data has become popular after the availability of free cloud storage services such as Google Drive. People who store data on the cloud forget to remove it even after they delete it from desktop computers and mobile phones. Remember to erase any sensitive personal data from the cloud as unused cloud services whose passwords are not changed regularly could be hacked. You can even synchronise the data stored on your devices and the cloud so that the data deleted on one would result in automatic deletion from the other.

Protecting your personal data is crucial for protecting yourself from crimes such as identity theft, financial fraud, and cyberbullying. While the above tips can help in protecting your personal data in 2019, keep yourself updated regarding the latest ways in which information theft is carried out. In the ever-changing digital world, information and watchfulness are the keys to protect your personal data.

Ellie RichardsTechnology
As the Internet of Things (IoT) gains traction, a lot of personal information is stored on electronic gadgets and on the cloud. In spite of the convenience offered by digital storage, electronic data could be easily stolen or accessed by malicious third parties. The loss of personal data could...