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Data Protection Day: Stay Safe Online

Posted on 21 January 2013
iOS6Held every year on the 28th of January, Data Protection Day aims to make people more aware of how they share their information online.

Here in the UK, companies have to safeguard your information under the Data Protection Act. So all the information they hold about you will only be used appropriately and won't be shared with anyone else without your consent. The Data Protection Act is the reason why when you call your bank, they can't help you until you've confirmed your password details.

Learning more about what information on you is held online and how it could be used against you, creates awareness and reduces fraud.

Identity theft is a real threat and although people are more careful about avoiding binning bank statements and conscious about shredding bills and personal documents, it's virtual data that we need to be careful with too.

Protect yourself online today by following our simple tips:

Avoiding fraudsters on Facebook

At face value, the world's most popular place to network seems like a fairly safe site. There are passwords, settings, and all sorts of notifications alerting you to your privacy. However it's frighteningly easy for fraudsters to browse your page and capture enough information about you to ring your bank and impersonate you, and the more you use social networking sites, the more information you're putting out there for the world to see.

If your privacy settings are sloppy, it's apparent to even the most unaccomplished of impostors what your pet's name is, your mother's maiden name is and what your favourite TV shows are. Seemingly frivolous facts are the kind of things you're likely to use as password combinations, so one glance at your Facebook wall and a criminal has cracked your banking passwords!

A general rule when you're using a social network is to assume everything you write can be seen by everyone, even if your settings restrict certain users. So what you post should reflect what you want people to read - both in terms of data, and what you do in your personal life. Your online reputation can precede you and it's not unheard of for potential employers to first check out your Facebook to see if you're a good fit, before they make a job offer. Any unsavoury insights posted by you can easily jeopardise your potential employment!

To find out what information you're telling Facebook users, log out, then visit your page by searching for it via Google. You can also select the cog icon in the top right of your profile and click "View as".

Here you can amend how your profile appears to anyone who isn't your friend and edit your privacy settings to accurately reflect the information you want to share. You can also restrict things from specific friends, hiding certain information from individuals. Additionally, clicking the padlock icon at the top of your Facebook page will also guide you through your privacy settings .

Many people aren't aware that search engines also store your information, so in order to be transparent, Google has created its own dashboard. Here you can view all the Google services you use, and what information is contained within them. It allows you to manage your online identity, remove unwanted content and even set alerts so you're informed when your personal data is posted publicly.
Using perfect passwords

Strong pins are essential in today's digital age. Predictable passwords mean hackers can access your email, details of things you've bought and even your banking and PayPal particulars. The worst contenders for the most easily guessed passwords include "password" followed by "123456". And don't be fooled into thinking an additional digit is a deterrent, "password1" is just as easily deciphered!
Password tips

  • Use a password consisting of upper and lower case letters, and numbers and punctuation marks. For example "CaRpHoNe_WaReHoUsE+2013".
  • Make your password memorable by forming a sentence, for example "It's_Data_Protection_Week!".
  • Don't try incorrect spelling of obvious words, these too are easily decoded.
  • Never use the same password for more than one service. Although it's easier to remember, it also means that if a criminal cracks one, they've cracked them all!
What is phishing?

You may have noticed warnings on the internet highlighting the dangers of "phishing". It's another web-based scam, where criminals intercept your personal details by tricking you into entering them onto sites they control. Their pages will mirror the look and feel of popular sites like Facebook and eBay and if you're in a hurry, and doing something on autopilot, the difference is not discernible. So before you know, it, you've given a criminal all your details!

Stop phishers in their tracks!

  • The good news is it's easy to spot a secure site versus a phishing one. Look for the letters https in the address bar at the top of the web page. This verifies that the site is secure and you can shop and enter details there safely.
  • Never click on a link within an email to visit a bank's website - most genuine emails from your bank avoid doing this because it's a favourite tactic of a phisher. Always enter a bank's web address manually into the address bar, just in case.
  • Never tell anyone your passwords, especially the ones to your email. And if you must reveal it, reset it as soon as you can. This includes leaving an email account open on a phone or tablet. Bare in mind that if someone has access to your email account, that can give them access to most of your other accounts.
  • Make sure the answers to your secret questions are known only by you, and can't be guessed easily by anyone who happens to have you on Facebook. If you get to choose your secret question, stay away from traditional ones such as where you live, your licence plate or your mother's maiden name. Instead choose questions that only you can answer, that won't change over time and that preferably form a phrase rather than a single word.
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