Historically, humans were most threatened by those in immediate proximity to them. Being susceptible to attack used to be exclusively confined to in person actions; but this exclusivity is no longer the case. With the emergence of the internet and a new digital society, humans have been able to access connections with those not previously possible ranging from coworkers working remotely, to relatives connecting from across the planet. But it is this modern ease of connection that has also forged a new means of threat. Despite the numerous luxuries the internet provides, it has also reared its head as another medium for humans to share their personal information. Moreover, this goldmine of information has brought about an emerging subset of attackers; those looking to gain your information, commit online fraud or even identity theft. With that being said, there are still ways individuals can protect their online information and reduce this likelihood. The following tips by the private investigators at Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc. outlines five practical and effective suggestions for how individuals can protect their online information and minimize their susceptibility to online fraud.
- Do Not Share Too Much Information on Social Media
Humans have indulged in social media like a drug. Through its ability to broadcast the excitement of an individual's life to others, people are obsessively sharing their latest and greatest over social media. But through oversharing information on social media, people are inadvertently exposing themselves. This suggestion has two domains of potential added protection. Firstly, individuals should be cautious of what they are sharing over social media. Sharing should avoid potentially exposing information related to location, work, or personal relationships. Moreover, once information is shared on the internet, it remains out there forever. Being considerate of these two prior notions when posting is imperative. Secondly, individuals should be aware of who they are sharing on social media with. Social media platforms often offer users the ability to select who information is shared with, whether it be followers to family or even the general public. Tinkering with these settings and ensuring that the receivers of your information are known, trusted individuals will limit your exposure to online threats.
- Practise Good Cyber Security Hygiene
With the emergence of online threats, application and web developers have fought back by implementing various protective mechanisms for individuals to minimize their risk. Yet at the hands of both ignorance and negligence, despite these protective efforts, few individuals exercise these features. Practising good cyber security hygiene means utilizing the various protective measures offered. This can include using unique strong passwords for all online accounts, activating two-factor authentication when available and regularly updating both application and operating softwares. Additionally, individuals can employ protective measures on the user side such as using network firewalls, browsing with a VPN, and even installing reputable antivirus software. Through utilizing these various in-app and user side mechanisms, individuals can practise good cyber security hygiene and minimize their susceptibility to online threats.
- Ensure WiFi Connections Are Secured
Majority of online action is dependent on internet connectivity through WiFi. This dependence on WiFi oftentimes incites individuals with the want to connect to any free WiFi network possible. This is problematic for user privacy as connecting to public networks grants both the provider, as well as online threats with the information you are accessing. Users can better protect themselves when using public networks by not accessing personal or financial information, as well as using VPN services while connected. Moreover, individuals should ensure their home WiFi networks are secured to prevent unwanted users from accessing both the network, as well as the information viewed through the network. This can be done by simply changing the router’s preset password as well as encrypting your network to WPA3 Personal or WPA2 Personal settings.
- Educate Yourself and Others About Phishing Attacks
Phishing is a term coined to denote the attempt to steal either financial, identity related or personal information by cybercriminals in the online space. Oftentimes, cybercriminals will pose as credible companies or friends of the individual and connect through email, text messaging or direct messages. Individuals can minimize their susceptibility to phishing attacks by educating themselves on how to detect attacks through actively considering their common characteristics. This can involve if the message includes an urgent call to action; whereby an individual is prompted to act immediately to either claim a reward or avoid a penalty. Alternatively, individuals should be cautious of messages with spelling or grammatical errors as well as prompts to navigate off the message through attachments or other unknown links. Moreover, individuals should not only continue to educate themselves on how to identify phishing attacks, but also others, especially elderly individuals.
- Advocate for Strong Digital Privacy Laws
In the information age, information itself is a popular commodity. In addition to the theft of online information by cybercriminals, many Big Tech companies and data brokers seek to collect an individual's data to be leveraged or sold off for profit. Unfortunately, the ways in which personal information can be obtained, and collected is at the mercy of the Canadian government. For the first time in decades, the Canadian government is working on updating digital privacy laws to assist with digital protection through Bill C-11 to enact the Consumer Privacy Protection Act. Bill C-11 remains a bill, and not yet a law; and must be effectively defined and improved so that Canadians can be truly protected. This must be reflected in the law’s actionability, accountability and enforcement. While this bill offers the promise of a more empowering digital society, Canadian citizens should be motivated to ensure the bill gets written effectively. Individuals can demonstrate action towards this law by lobbying to legislators through phone calls, or formal letters.
In conclusion, whether online or in person, you are constantly asked for your personal data. We shouldn’t just give it up blindly. Think about why the information is needed, who will use it and how and how to protect it. Remember that the Internet forgets. Once the information is available, it is very difficult to retrieve it. You should also always think about how the impact of your comments or images could have on your reputation or that of others.