7 Easy Ways to Improve Data Privacy

Need to improve data privacy? Don’t stress, I’ve got you covered. Did you know that last year there were 1,001 data breaches in the U.S. and 155.8 million data exposures?

All these instances occurred because of less-than-adequate information security. In other words, human error cost millions of Americans their privacy, and many of them will never get it back. Luckily, there are a few ways to prevent cybercriminals from stealing your information, even if you aren’t a tech nerd.

Data Privacy

Improve data privacy with these 7 helpful hacks — pun intended

1. Create Passphrases

Creating a strong password is crucial when it comes to protecting your data. Subsequently, most security professionals recommend using a passphrase instead of a single word like your pet’s name. It should include upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Make the process easier by downloading a Diceware word list and finding words to match each number. By the time you’re done, you should end up with a random password that’s longer than 17 characters and absolute gibberish. 

2. Use Two-Factor Authentication

Even the best passphrases can fail to protect you. In this case, it’s wise to enable two-factor authentication. This extra security measure uses your phone number to ensure you’re the only one able to access your account, even if someone else has your username and passphrase. Look for two-factor authentication in the settings of your banking, shopping and email accounts and opt in whenever possible. This will increase data privacy.

3. Update Your Software

No one looks forward to updating their operating system because it can take hours, if not days. However, frequent updates are necessary if you want to improve data privacy. Most Windows systems update monthly, while Apple makes minor changes every two to three months. Set your operating system to upgrade automatically so you never have to remember to do so manually. 

4. Install Firewalls

Installing a firewall on your home network can also protect your privacy and defend your data from outside threats like viruses and spyware. Firewalls can alert you to potentially dangerous activity, prevent you from visiting unreliable websites and block malicious traffic from entering your system. Configure your settings to ensure the firewall is always on or use one that’s hardware-based, like those built into routers, for better security. 

5. Review Privacy Settings

Whether you use apps for work or off-the-clock activities, you probably spend countless hours scrolling through them every day. Most offer privacy settings, enabling you to choose what information the app can collect and store. One of the easiest ways to improve data privacy is to limit data sharing as much as possible. Review the settings in each app and reconsider how much permission you’re willing to give these companies. 

6. Encrypt Your Data 

Data encryption might sound like it’s only for geeks. However, anyone can encrypt their data with a few simple tools. In many cases, all you have to do is download a plug-in that automatically encrypts files, emails and even your hard drive. Mac laptops come with a feature called FileVault that encrypts the entire system drive. Simply open your system preferences, head to the Security and Privacy tab and turn on FileVault. Just don’t lose your password.

7. Connect to Private Networks

If you’ve ever connected to a coffee shop’s wireless network, you’ve put your data at risk. These public networks are often unsecured and can easily be hacked. Man-in-the-middle attacks, malware distribution, snooping and sniffing, and connecting to malicious hotspots are just some of the risks of using public Wi-Fi. Therefore, it’s best to use a virtual private network or avoid connecting to these networks altogether.  This is essential to improve data privacy.

Preparing for the Worst

All the data security tips in the world can’t protect you from a top-tier hacker or a companywide data breach. Therefore, it’s important to prepare for the worst and back up all your data. If anything goes wrong, you can rest easy knowing you have a copy. Data privacy should definitely be on your list of priorities.

Watch this space for updates in the Technology category on Running Wolf’s Rant.

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Ginger Abbot

I'm a career and learning writer, freelancer, and the Editor-in-Chief of Classrooms.com.

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