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Why You Should Pay Attention to Data Privacy Day

In honor of Data Privacy Day on Jan. 28, a reminder to help protect the privacy of your personal information online, especially if you are active on social networking sites.

Don Milne Jan 28, 2019

When you look at a January calendar, what days stand out the most? Probably New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day for starters, but what else?

Most of us won’t lose any sleep if we overlook Fruitcake Toss Day on Jan. 3 or Static Electricity Day on Jan. 9 or Chocolate Cake Day on Jan. 27 (well, maybe not Chocolate Cake Day).

However, most of us would be in better shape if we learned more about Data Privacy Day on Jan. 28.

A fifth of the way into the 21st century, we can’t ignore that a lot of important information about us is “safeguarded” in digital locations that fraudsters would love to infiltrate.

We can always use a reminder to help protect the privacy of our personal information online, especially if we are active on social networking sites. If you become “friends” with people you don’t know, you may be unwittingly inviting fraudsters to gather personal information they can use to steal your identity or defraud you.

Stay Safe Online, the main organization behind Data Privacy Day, encourages consumers to follow these tips to help stay safe in the digital world.

Data Privacy Day Tip #1: Keep your devices updated and secured

Your computer and phone manufacturers don’t want to have a bad name associated with security breaches. They update their operating systems every so often to improve security. Don’t be lazy and put off updating your device system or apps when prompted to do so.

Another important security precaution is using a passcode or Touch ID to lock your device, which can help protect your data if your phone is lost or stolen. It’s also a good idea to delete any apps that you no longer use. 

Data Privacy Day Tip #2: Be savvy about spam and phishing

Don’t open email from sources you don’t know. Watch for phony sources pretending to be your bank or a business you know, and will then use this faked relationship to obtain personal information.

Data Privacy Day Tip #3: Take steps to help protect your online activity

Anyone can set up an online “store,” and if it offers products at unheard of prices, it may be a false site. You also need to be careful on legitimate websites by taking the following precautions when shopping online: 

  • Don’t use the same password across multiple websites. 
  • Make sure the website is security enabled (look for “https” not “http” at the beginning of the address). 
  • Use a payment option like a credit card that will allow you to dispute problems with a purchase. 
  • Don’t save your payment method details on the store’s site.

Also, remember that public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure, meaning anyone could potentially see your activity on your mobile device while you are connected. It’s a good idea to avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services on public WiFi networks.

Data Privacy Day Tip #4: Back up important files

If the only place you store important information is on a computer hard drive or a flash drive, you will be in a world of hurt if it is lost or stops working. You can use CDs, flash drives, external hard drives, and online backup services to make sure you still have important files even if your main file is lost.

Data Privacy Day Tip #5: Take steps to avoid malware, botnets, and ransomware

These are harmful programs that criminals use to attack your computer devices and cause havoc. Keep your security software current. Don’t click on emails or links that look suspicious. Scan your flash drives and other external devices that can transmit viruses.

This may seem like a lot of work but those bad actors trying to steal your personal information are counting on you not doing anything. Yes, it’s a hassle to take all of these steps to help protect your personal information, but it is a much bigger hassle to have to deal with having your personal information stolen.

Don Milne is Financial Literacy Manager for Zions Bank.

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