I’m just going to talk some basic account security.
- Use 2-factor authentication for all of your accounts: email, Facebook, Instagram, bank accounts, scheduling and payment services, and whatever other accounts that offer that feature. Consider getting an authentication app instead of using your phone number. (I don’t like to associate my phone number with any online account… and SIM card hacking is a thing that you should know about.)
- Never use a duplicate password.
- Maintain your passwords using a password manager (just search for it in your app store). Honestly, I’m not going to tell you which one I use because I am super paranoid about online security. But I will recommend these LifeHacker and CNet articles to help you choose. Some apps have a “generate password” feature, which is really nice because you don’t even have to think up a password or remember it. It will randomly generate a secure password for you and store it for that account.
All these news reports about data breaches of innocuous services (like MyFitnessPal) are not as harmless as they seem at first glance. People joke, “Whatever, they have my calorie data, who cares?” But NO, they have your email address, too… and a password that you used to login to that account. That’s why we don’t use duplicate passwords! And once they have your email address… they can target you and send all kinds of Nigerian Prince-type scams to gain access to your email or other accounts associated with that email address (don’t scoff, it’s called social engineering, and those phishing attempts are getting way more sophisticated). If you’re interested in learning how to protect yourself from such scams, there’s a great podcast that delves deep into this subject, called Hacking Humans.
As for trying to avoid getting caught in a hack like MyFitnessPal, that’s tough. You could stop doing business with services that don’t ensure adequate data security. But really, how can you know if they’re handling your data well until they get hacked? Unfortunately, most tech companies start off with the bare minimum security precautions and only amp up their security once there’s been a breach. I suggest that you use an email masking service for websites that you are trying out or you don’t quite trust.
Ok, so those are the bare basics to make sure that the information you thought was safe and private, such as your passwords and bank accounts… is actually safe and stays private.
Now, the next step in this series is: how to maintain your privacy on social media.
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