Pew Research revealed that over three-quarters (86%) of Internet users are trying to remove and/or mask their digital footprint—be it clearing cookies, encrypting email, not using their real name on virtual networks, disguising their internet protocol (IP) address, the list goes on. And it continues. Over half of Internet users (55%) are trying to avoid observation from specific individuals, organizations, and governments. From going over these stats, it makes sense that 50% of internet users feel worried about their privacy (or lack of) on the Internet. Why shouldn’t they be considering that Americans (which were a part of the sample) value privacy?
Privacy Matters… A Lot
In fact, Americans relish it. So much so that it’s in the fabric of our Bill of Rights—the first amendment is about our privacy of belief; the third amendment states our homes are private—no soldiers can be quartered there; and what about the fourth amendment, protecting the privacy of ourselves and our possessions against unreasonable search and seizure?
Then there’s our privacy of space, which is larger than a majority of cultures. ATM lines, elevators, you name it, we have at least a foot in between. Not to mention, we walk 4-12 feet between strangers in a mall and stand 1.5-4 feet from co-worker during a conversation. (Yes, Americans’ “space bubbles” are mapped down to the inch.)
What’s Up With Privacy?
While Americans are walking 12 feet around strangers, as TIME points out, we’re agreeing to service contracts that allow for companies to track our search results and whereabouts. While the Internet is still in its infancy—it’s only been around for 48 years—and although there are more regulations, it’s still in a wild west state. So, a majority of internet protection falls in your hands. This being said, here’s 3 simple privacy tricks you can do that take less than 5 minutes.
1. Passwords Put the “P” in Privacy
Yes, you’ve heard this mantra before…over and over… create an un-crack-able password. What many don’t know after hearing/stating this mantra is how? Other than the common-sense approach (i.e. use a couple letters, numbers, a character, and capital letter), what does it take to ensure your privacy is near breakable? The answer, science.
According to Scientific American, a few years ago, Carnegie Mellon University scientists studied mnemonic devices and memorization that would give them passwords that were un-crack-able… AND weren’t just a string of random letters, words, and symbols on a piece of paper you’d need to break out every time you logged onto your laptop.
You see, what people don’t factor in is not only the time you need to create a strong password but the time you need to put in to remember it. To ace both of these, these scientists used the “shared cues” system.
Here’s How It Works
The article further stated how you can use these methods. Picture a random place: San Francisco, California. Choose a random person: Elon Musk. Next, imagine an equally random action and object tying this randomness together — “Elon Musk juggling a chicken on the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Then, take the first three letters of “juggling” and “chicken”: JUGCHIC. This is an image pair. Repeat these steps several times until you’ve created a couple of image pairs. Combine them together, and you’ve got yourself as unbreakable of a password as can be.
That way, should a cyber attacker know stereotypic password information, such as your birthday and name, they’ll still have a hard time cracking your passwords.
2. Consider What You Share Before You Share It
Be careful what you share…even if your social media is set on private. The reason behind this is your followers, Facebook friends, and yes, family may (innocently) leak out this personal information on their boards and news feeds.
That, and hackers can and do hijack social media accounts. Don’t believe us? Even the Facebook mastermind, Mark Zuckerberg’s LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts were hijacked. For friends, family, and followers of Zuckerberg’s, it may have been costly had they divulged sensitive information during that time. So, play it safe and keep mum…to an extent.
In general, what to stay away from:
- Anything that puts your passwords at risk: specific dates (i.e. anniversaries, birthdate year, your kids’ names, email you use for your passwords).
- Company information (not only would this give potential hackers intel, you could also jeopardize your position).
- Address and phone number
- Financial Information
Stay Aware of Social Media Attackers
Along the same lines, know that your privacy still isn’t completely safe even if follower’s/friend’s/family accounts aren’t hijacked; sadly, social media attackers lurk (rather anonymously) online, posting enticing Twitter links. Even the Pentagon can (and did) suffer a cyber attack from this kind of social media malware, as, according to The Guardian, Russian hackers gained entry into the Pentagon by a Twitter link promising a family-friendly vacation.
As a rule of thumb, stay wary of suspicious links on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn…even from friends because, as we mentioned, their accounts could have been hacked. Some potential signs indicating this includes: a link in a Facebook message from a friend (how many friends just send a link?), and a vague, personable message— “You should definitely check this out”— with a link attached (you’d expect a little more specificity).
3. Question Deceptive Thinking with Email
In a Pew Research study, 21% more people felt more secure with email (35%) than social media (14%). However, this thinking is detrimental, as people put down their walls and send over information as personable as credit card numbers, tax information, and social security numbers without proper encryption methods. If you must send over sensitive information, send it in a compressed, password-protected zip file. Or use a reliable cloud-based service, where the message is still password-protected.
For more cybersecurity information about privacy, check out our blog and other resources to learn more about how to protect yourself and company from potential cyberattacks.