Cyber privacy 2019 – a timely reminder

Cyber privacy 2019 – a timely reminder

Wednesday, 3 April, 2019

The year is barely underway and already indications are that 2019 could be one of the worst for internet privacy and data security.

Already we have seen 773m email IDs and 22m passwords, which had been stored on the Cloud sharing service MEGA stolen. With an estimated 87GB of data involved makes it the largest data breach in history.

Facebook then had to admit it had stored the passwords of more than 600m users in plain text format, in a location accessible to 20,000 Facebook employees.

Then there was the 108m users of online betting sites who were exposed after being copied to a cloud service without being secured.

In fact, it is estimated 1.7bn records were leaked in January alone. And all indications are that 2019 could get worse. So, it is a good time to re-check we are as secure as we possibly could be.

Use a secure password manager

Despite regular warnings we are still tending to use the same password across multiple sites. In our defence, one of the headaches with multiple, elaborate passwords is remembering them all. But this need not be the case with the use of a secure password manager.

Those, like LastPass and Dashlane will not only help you generate secure passwords for different sites, but they will store them in an encrypted format and give you the ability to sync them across all of your devices.

Enable two-factor authentication

Yes, we at Broadband Deals and our sister site simonlydeals have regularly urged our readers to use two-factor authentication. It is worth reiterating. Most online services now offer this option particularly via SMS to your mobile phone or by using, for instance, the Google Authenticator app.

Taking advantage of this service means that even if one day your data is compromised it is still impossible for a bad guy to access your account without having access to your two-factor authentication device.

Use a VPN

If the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal has taught us one thing it is that bad guys are doing everything they can to gather our data and then use it to target offers to you, sell or share it with other third-parties.

We now know that online tracking and monitoring is a highly sophisticated process. By installing tracking pixels on a website you visit or plain old cookies on your computer it is extremely easy for a third-party to gather a huge amount of data about you.

This can include the type of browser you use, your location and your demographic data.

One of the best ways to prevent this snooping is by using a VPN. There are many good options now and each has much to offer.

Pay attention to app permissions

We’ve tackled this before, especially when we have reported on rogue apps on smartphones. Always check closely the permissions asked for when downloading an app.

Many permissions allow apps to gather data on the user. This data can be used to tailor offers or more worryingly they can be sold or shared with other third-parties and not always for healthy reasons.

Watch out for browser extensions

It is another golden rule of personal security to check closely browser extensions. A large number of them have been exposed for bad activities such as gathering data on its users and selling it on. Recently it has been found that some developers have installed ‘sticky notes’ that are designed to secretly inject ads into your browser, generating profits when users click on these ads.

A general rule of thumb is if you don’t need a browser extension don’t download it. If you’ve stopped using the installed browser extension, then uninstall it and if you’re not comfortable with the permissions then don’t install.

Have a look at your social privacy settings

Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter have faced the wrath of users over their dubious handling of privacy issues. It is then important to review your social privacy settings now and to review on a regular basis.

Make sure your settings do not allow unknown third-parties access to your data, especially the information you intended only to share with personal contacts.

All in all, there is really no excuse. We all know what threats are out there and the tech giants often dubious approaches to us as revenue sources. We also should know by now what we can do to prevent or at least restrict them. So, let’s get safe.

Image: Brian Katt

Tim Bamford author picture


Tim is a veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.