In the era of GDPR, reputation–destroying data breaches and multi–million–pound lawsuits, awareness of data privacy is higher than it has ever been, with consumers across the world demanding more transparency around how their data is being used and by whom.
The very nature of data has also changed. Ten years ago, your data could be summarised in your phone book, diary or Filofax organiser. In today’s digital era, everything we now do online leaves digital footprints that build up to create a picture of who we are. Data is fast becoming a new global currency, made up of your online behaviours, such as your social media friends list, what you read online, how many cat videos you watch a day, to name just a few. Businesses scramble to collect and safeguard this information, yet the abundance of data available is often overwhelming. As a result, it can be difficult to manage and govern appropriately.
What is Data Protection Day?
On 28th January every year, Data Protection Day (known outside of Europe as Data Privacy Day) brings together governments, regulators and data protection bodies to raise awareness for data protection and seeks to promote good privacy and data protection practices. Launched in 2006 by the Council of Europe, it serves as an annual check–in on the health of data protection to ensure there are no hiding places for data misuse.
Why is data protection so important?
Since the introduction of GDPR, there have been numerous incidents involving the misuse or theft of personal data, such as the British Airways data breach and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. When sensitive or personal information, such as customer details, transactions, bank card details and online activities, isn’t protected, it can be left vulnerable to misuse by third parties for fraud, such as phishing scams and identity theft.
For businesses, this can be not only financially costly with hefty fines for regulatory non–compliance, it can also cause real reputational damage – consumers are now quick to punish organisations that don’t protect their data by switching brands, shopping elsewhere or voicing their anger on digital channels like social media to attack brand reputations.
How can I protect my data?
Whether you are managing your company’s day–to–day operations or using your personal devices on the move, it’s essential to ensure your data is protected no matter where you are. Here are some of our top tips on how to keep your data safe.
Encrypt your network connection.
In today’s digital age, we expect quick and seamless access to an internet connection just as much as we expect a coffee shop to serve us coffee or for our car to turn on when we put the keys in the ignition. One of the most common first questions asked when walking into a café, hotel or restaurant is “What’s your Wi–Fi password?”, however it’s important to note that a publicly shared Wi–Fi password can be just as insecure as an open network. To protect your data on the go, encrypt your network connection to ensure your Wi–Fi network is safe for confidential browsing and prevent your data from being compromised.
Update your software
Update your device’s software – not just parts of it, all of it! Updating when new security and software patches become available means that the latest security protocols will be installed, and your device should have a newly improved layer of protection that reduces the chances of your data being breached. Windows users will need to check the Control Panel while Mac users will need to check the app store or on each specific app for updates.
Strengthen your password
Using common passwords like “Password123” and “12345678” makes your private information very easy to hack so picking a strong password is a vital part of your cyber security, both professional and personal. Simple ways to strengthen your passwords include using a combination of upper– and lower–case letters, numbers and symbols, and making the password longer. Many experts now recommend thinking about a ‘passphrase’ instead of a password, combining three random but memorable words.
Multi–factor authentication (MFA) also adds an additional layer of protection to passwords and is now an essential safeguard for both businesses and consumers alike across the globe. It works by requiring more than one form of authentication to verify the user before granting access to the account. Without MFA, antivirus software, firewalls, encryption technology and vulnerability tests can be bypassed. Although it may be regarded by some as ‘business grade’, MFA is probably the single most important security measure you can implement, and it is recommended that all accounts, from your Gmail to your Ring Doorbell, be protected this way.
Check your social media settings
Do you know who is able to see what you’re posting on Facebook, Instagram or any of your other social media accounts? Most social media profiles are set to ‘public’ by default when set up, meaning anyone outside of your friends list can also see what you’re posting and being tagged in. So, while that festive photo that you’ve tagged at your house of your Christmas tree with all the presents underneath may impress friends and family, it lets criminals online know both where you live and that you have something worth stealing. To stay safe, click the padlock or settings icon in the top corner of your profile to see what you’re sharing and make your profiles private.
Check out Stay Safe Online for a full list of direct links to privacy settings on popular devices and online services.
Install browser extensions
Similar to strangers being able to view your public social media profiles, companies such as online retailers are able to track your personal data when you visit their website, while cyber criminals can discreetly access your computer’s webcam and carry out phishing activities to steal your identity. Thankfully there are numerous browser extensions available that can be installed on your device, which disable certain forms of code and enforce other to make sure your connection is secure and prevent anyone from tracking or spying on you.
Any and all of these simple tips will go a long way in helping you to protect your data – stay safe online every day, not just on Data Protection Day!