Online Security: Stay Diligent

If all of this talk of online privacy, hacking, and social engineering is fascinating you, and you want to learn more… I have some great resources to start you off.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and really freaked out, just take it slow. I have some friends who throw their hands up and say, “Fuck it, nothing is private anymore.” And then they just go about their lives as usual, changing nothing. It’s up to you to make that call for yourself. But I believe that the more you learn about online privacy and security, the more you realize that you do have the power to make changes and take control of your information.

Alexandra Ross, The Privacy Guru, talks about how to build and maintain a privacy habit through the cue, routine, reward process.
Some cues that might alert you to stop and think before providing your information:

  • The store clerk asks you to provide your email, zip code, or phone number when making an in-store purchase
  • You download a new app, agree to the contract, and click to allow location tracking, access to your calendar, email, photos, etc.
  • You purchase and install a new “smart” or connected device, such as Amazon Echo
  • You log into a social media website or use your social media login to access another online service
  • A website asks you to create a new user account for an online service or asks you to submit your email address in order to access information
  • You write a status update or upload a picture to social media

Your routine is to Stop. Evaluate. Enter (or not).

Stop and think before providing your information. Do you feel comfortable with this exchange? Do you feel pressured, rushed, or distracted?

Evaluate. Does the store clerk really need your email address? No. It might feel weird at first to say no. Practice what you’ll say to him/her. Does this new app really need access to your location? Do you actually need this app at all? What are you posting? What valuable information are you giving away?

Enter. Decide if you’ll provide your information. Do you consent to the terms of service? Can you submit a masked email address to that service? Can you offer your business address instead of home address? Can you crop out the street sign or the name of your gym in that photo you were about to post?

Your reward might not be immediate. You might get a strange look from the store clerk. It is a hassle to provide a masked email address instead of your real one. You might have to go without an app or device that seems to be making everyone else’s lives so much easier. But the reward comes much later, when you find out that a service was hacked, and you pat yourself on the back for using discretion in providing your information.

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