In my search for ESI-centric information that would pique my readers’ interest, I came across an interesting article/blog about digital privacy written by Thorin Klosowski, in which he details seven (i.e., one per day) simple ways to secure your digital life.* Because I found the plan easy to implement and steeped in wisdom, I decided to share Klowoski’s recommendations. While today’s blog summarizes those ideas, I have provided below a link to Klowoski’s article because, when you sign up to read the full article, you will receive a daily email (one per day for seven days) with easy to follow instructions on how to implement each of the below seven suggestions. There is no time like the present to implement these steps and secure your digital life.
- Install a Password Manager. A password manager is software that generates and then securely stores strong passwords for the websites you use. So for example, the manager will allow you to create and store Gx4$!kcF but not icecream! Additionally, when you use a password manager, you will be notified to change a password if a website you access is compromised. There are plenty of managers to choose from – some are free, others charge a fee – but it is important to find one that works on smartphones and in all major browsers. If you opt not to do anything else, Klowoski recommends you install a password manager. It is a simple way to have a significant impact on your e-security.
- Check Your Phone’s Privacy Settings. Smartphone applications often run in the background of your phone. In doing so, they gather private data about you. For example, they collect your location, your contact lists, your browsing history. You can easily audit these permissions so that certain applications do not gain access to data that you prefer they not have access to (e.g., why does OpenTable or Words with Friends need access to your location?).
- Protect Your Browsing. Companies can track everything we do on the internet. Seriously. They can (and do) track the advertisements we see, our physical location, our browsing habits, the buttons we click, etc. All of this data gets collected for the purpose of targeted advertisement campaigns. Ever wonder why after perusing the internet for a certain pair of sneakers that advertisements for that very sneaker appears in your Instagram and Facebook accounts? The good news is there are various steps we can take to minimize companies’ ability to track us, without compromising your ability to use the internet. And, all that is required is downloading browser extensions to your computer or phone.
- Protect Your Laptop. You’ve lost your laptop! Panic may likely set in because of the voluminous personal information on the laptop that will be available to the person who finds the lost computer. Now what? In an effort to prevent such a nightmare, Klowoski recommends we all encrypt our hard drives. It is incredibly simple and can save you hours of worry and headache. What encryption allows is that no one can access the laptop without a password. And, at the same time, nothing about the daily use of your laptop will change. Windows and MacBooks can both be encrypted relatively easily. Critically important, however, is to keep the encryption password somewhere safe. Because while encrypting a laptop keeps a bad actor out, you can also lock yourself out.
- Anti-Virus Software is Key. Antivirus software, while sometimes criticized as clunky and disruptive, is highly advisable. For example, if you share your computer with others, download software or visit websites that may not be secure, the recommendation is to install and maintain on your computer antivirus software. And, if you are super-conscientious, consider additional protection (recommendation is Malwarebytes), which performs real-time scans of downloads and works in the background for additional protection.
- Stay Current. Enabling automatic updates on a computer, smartphone and any other “smart” device ensures the device is current with security updates. While some people ignore updates because the update can cause temporary issues (e.g., my internet got slower) the security improvements are really important.
- Double Down. Set up dual-factor authentication for any accounts that are important. What dual-factor authentication means is that any account requires two separate data entries: a password and a special one-time code that is typically sent by text messages to your phone. Once set up, it becomes significantly more difficult for anyone to access your account because even if they learn/hack/guess your password, they cannot receive the special one-time numerical code unless they also have physical access to your phone. There are many dual-authentication apps available to choose from. And, despite claims that dual-authentication delays access to important accounts, it is really a seamless and secure process that should be implemented.