How to Keep Your Personally Identifiable Information Secure Online
FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.
It seems like we constantly are hearing about Internet hacks and the stealing of personally identifiable information online. At this point, we use the Internet for so many positive aspects of our lives. Given that we inevitably are online, what are some steps that we can employ to keep our private information safe?
Here are just a few simple tips to keep in mind:
First, it is important to protect your credit card information. One way of doing this is to check and see that the website you are logging onto is secure. One thing to look for is whether the URL begins with HTTPS and not just HTTP. Also, it is important to log out of your customer accounts when you are done with transactions -- especially financial transactions.
It also is a good idea to turn off your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi functions on your computer and mobile devices when not using them. By doing this, other people nearby may not be able to gain access. Moreover, you should have your sharing settings configured only with trusted devices that you own.
Unfortunately, it is becoming a fact of life that computers and mobile devices are lost and stolen. Therefore, it is prudent to back up important files and information on the cloud. Cloud computing has become more secure over time. Indeed, even sensitive sectors such as the healthcare industry now use the cloud for data storage.
This particular tip is especially critical to the younger generation, but to others as well: be as safe as possible when using social media. People tend to share fairly personal details of their lives on social media, and because of this everyone should be very careful about what is posted on these networks. For example, the simple posting of photos showing that someone is on vacation could lead potentially to a robbery in his or her home while away. Furthermore, details shared on social media could come back to bite when someone is applying for a job.
People seem to believe that the simple use of the delete button gets rid of information for all time. However, that is not the case. Data seems to live on forever and can be recovered if certain steps or not taken. One simple step is to make sure that drives are fully and completely wiped before a machine is thrown away or sold. The machine also should be given a factory reset.
In addition to the foregoing, password protection is critically important. Unbelievably, the most common password on the Internet is the word "password." Obviously, that is not a safe password, nor are many others used frequently. The best passwords should be impossible to figure out even by family members and friends. Indeed, the best tactic is to use a random password generator, and random passwords created should be saved on a safe and encrypted file.
The Internet provides many benefits to millions of users. Nevertheless, personally identifiable information often is vulnerable to misappropriation. Hopefully, the tips suggested before here be useful if employed properly.
Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.
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