A recent article asked this question in a survey and came away with an unsettling discovery, most people simply do not care enough to take measures to protect themselves, their identity, and their data when online or using their cellular devices. Or they think it will not happen to them.
Here are the questions asked in the survey and the top answer to each:
- Do you encrypt data on your phone or computer? 50.7% “No”
- Do you ever use an anonymous browser like Tor? 70.1% “No”
- Do you use a password locker or storehouse like LastPass or OnePass? 65.7% “No”
- Please think of the password you use most often. How many letters or numbers or characters long is it? 59.2% “8-11 characters”
- Have you ever had personal information of yours stolen from a company you patronize, like Target or Home Depot? 58.5% “No”
For this author, and the author of the article, the results are shocking. Okay, it's true I built a burglar alarm for my room when I was 8 to catch my sister going in to mess with my things. So, I grew up with a bias towards being secure. But even without that bias, there is so much news today about the reality of cyber-attacks, it seems more people should be concerned.
Take a moment and answer the questions for yourself. In my case, I answered “Yes” to every question and my average passwords on sensitive sites run between 8 and 12 characters. How did your answers turn out? If you are like most people, you might want to take steps to protect your information. Fortunately, many are easy to take.
Several newer phones automatically encrypt data and communications when they send them but leave them unencrypted on the phone itself. Some messaging apps encrypt communications for transmission, but again leave data unencrypted on the phone. This is a weakness that the bad actors understand and can exploit. Yes, it is imperfect, but it adds some of protection to over the air (OTA) communications.
The Tor browser is a bit hard to use at times, so I have a virtual private network (VPN) app I can fire up on my phone and PCs. This hides my identity and makes it harder to intercept my communications. On the downside, there are sites that act oddly or won’t let me connect at all when I try to connect via VPN. And, it is not always the easiest app to use.
When it comes to passwords, consider a secure password manager, one you pay a license fee for. Otherwise, the free to use versions will sell some of your personal data to raise operating and development revenue. I personally have used one for many years to help manage my hundreds of passwords. My memory isn’t that good! Generally speaking, these are very easy to use.
On the topic of passwords, I recommend that you do not let a browser remember a password for you. It is more convenient but leaves the passwords vulnerable if browsers are hacked. Use for the password manager instead.
Also, do not let websites keep your credit card information to “speed up checkout” in the future. A hack of their systems and your credit card data is compromised.
My personal data was compromised in the Equifax breach and in a couple of others. As a result, I am quite sensitive to keeping it secure and now have several additional security measures in place including identity theft insurance. My next investment will be the CRIP.TO Shield and Black combination. With their unique blend of encryption and hardware, I can truly realize the company objective of empowering me to “Communicate Fearlessly.”
If you are still undecided about taking protective steps, read the posts about the value of individuals’ information and the cost to repair an identity theft. Then please, act to stay safe so you too can Communicate Fearlessly.