8 Easy tech tips to keep your private photos and other data safe online
No woman wants to wake up to the news that her most private, intimate pics have been plastered all over the Internet for everyone to see. Unfortunately, data breaches and cloud hacking are becoming more and more common.
The good news is you don't have to be a tech genius to avoid being exposed like Jennifer Lawrence or Kirsten Dunst.
For us technologically-challenged ladies who need a complete tutorial every time our phone's operating system has an upgrade, there are simple measures to make sure our private information stays private. If you've ever feared what would happen if your Cloud got hacked or worried about the security of online shopping, these are the eight things you need to know to become a data security queen.
1. Protect photos in the cloud
If you're worried about racy photos getting into the wrong hands, here's what you can do. First, check the settings of your camera app. If you don't want photos automatically backed up and saved on the Cloud, you can turn off that feature.
If that seems too extreme, be sure you physically delete questionable photos from any photo stream and the actual device where they are stored, which includes any emails or text messages that include the photos. The next thing you need to do is double-check the effectiveness of your Cloud password and other security measures, which we’ll explain in further detail below.
2. Generate, manage and protect passwords
Passwords are the gatekeepers of all your sensitive data; but if you don’t take them seriously, hackers can easily guess them. The idea of putting different, complicated passwords on all of your accounts can feel overwhelming — if not impossible. Lucky for us, there’s an app for that. Thanks, technology!
Password managers are your best friend when it comes to creating and keeping track of strong passwords. When you use software like 1Password or LastPass, all you have to remember is one master password, and the software keeps track of everything else. It also helps you generate unique, hard-to-crack passwords that help keep the hackers at bay.
3. Lock down your router
Passwords aren't just for your mobile devices and online accounts. You need to protect your Internet connection at its source: the router.
The best ways to keep the bad guys off your network are to enable encrypted security for your router and use a long, secure network name and password. Your router should use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA2) not Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). Consult the owner's manual to upgrade an older router to WPA2.
4. Use secondary verification
Secondary, or two-factor, authentication is like adding a deadbolt to the front door. This authentication asks you to answer a security question or enter a code after you’ve already entered your username and password.
Banks and other sensitive sites use this type of verification when they detect a user logging in from an unfamiliar device or if other warning signs come up. You can also change settings on certain accounts, like your email or social media accounts, to require secondary verification every time you log in.
You don’t have to fork over a small fortune to get the best antivirus software for all of your devices. Windows comes with built-in antivirus protection, but your computer and your information are safer with additional protection. Trusted sources like PC Mag and TechRadar have recently released their lists of the best free software of 2015 that will keep your phones, tablets and computers safe from viruses and malware. After you select and install an antivirus program, make sure you perform updates regularly — ignoring updates is just as dangerous as not having any protection.
6. Smartphone security
You need to pay as much attention to security on your phone as you do on your laptop or PC. Start with the basics: use a passcode and activate secondary authentication to sensitive apps like banking and Cloud services. Only install apps from trusted, verified sources, and don’t respond to texts from a number you don’t know. Likewise, never click on links or download anything from an unfamiliar source.
Keep your phone protected even if you lose it by activating an app that will help you locate your missing phone and remotely wipe its data. To make sure you don’t lose everything if you have to wipe it, back up your phone regularly to your computer or another external hard drive.
7. Protect financial info
It’s tempting to store your credit cards and banking information in a remote wallet for easy access when shopping online, but everything stored on your computer or in the Cloud is vulnerable to attack. Bottom line — don’t do it.
If you’re on a public Wi-Fi network, don’t check your bank balance or go shopping. Public networks are unsecured, which means all the information you access or use is up for grabs. Make sure you use secured websites by checking that all sites you access begin with "https," not "http." Even on a secure network, always log out of financial websites completely. A little diligence goes a long way to keep your financial information safe.
8. Don't store passwords
Having the most complicated password in the world won't do you any good if you save your passwords to your computer or browser. "Your most vulnerable soft spot is in all likelihood through a password-protected account," says Sanders. "Whatever password you choose, make sure you never have your browser remember your password for you. Yes, I know it is convenient, but it is not secure."
Resist the urge to take the easy path. Taking just a little extra time to log in to each account is much easier than recovering from a data breach or identity theft.
It doesn't matter what your level of techie knowledge is. It's easy to use these savvy suggestions to safeguard your online information and make sure you never have to suffer the embarrassment and potential devastation of leaked photos or a stolen social security number.