These past few years have seen a significant shift in how businesses are usually done, with most transactions now done online. OECD reports that in 2020, sales in brick and mortar stores decreased by 7.7%, while online transaction sales went up by 16% for grocery stores with e-commerce services. As well, with the lockdowns that have been implemented at the start of the pandemic, most of our daily activities, including studying and working, are now done online.
However, this shift comes with considerable risks, particularly when it comes to the safekeeping of your personal information. Studies show that 15 million US citizens experience identity theft every year, and people active on social media are 30% more likely to have their details stolen. These cases of identity theft have cost people in the US $56 billion in 2020. These figures show just how important it is to be proactive in safeguarding your personal details online. Here are some easy ways to keep your online activities safe.
The Importance of Encrypted Messaging
Social messaging plays such an integral role in our lives and as of 2020, messaging apps like WhatsApp has been delivering 100 billion messages daily. With the amount of information that you send out daily, it may be difficult to fully monitor each message that you send. Thus, you might want to use encrypted messaging services, as encryption features ensure that messages, photos, videos, and files are only seen by both sender and receiver. Existing platforms that provide encrypted messaging include WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram.
Social media giants do acknowledge their role in keeping their users’ personal information safe, with companies like Meta (previously Facebook) pushing through with their plans to encrypt their messaging services, including Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct. Similarly, the WhatsApp data privacy campaign also aims to raise awareness on how individuals and organizations can safeguard their online information.
The Stronger the Better
Using strong passwords is perhaps one of the oldest pieces of advice there is when it comes to doing online transactions. However, no matter how many times this advice is repeated, most people still do not heed it. A survey shows that the most popular passwords are still extremely easy to guess, as most of them are simply an iteration of “123456,” “Password,” and “Qwerty.” Meanwhile, a survey by Google also found that 59% of online users still use their birthdates or similar easily discoverable information as their passwords.
Your password is your first line of defense when safeguarding your personal information online. A general rule of thumb here is to select longer passwords. A 12-character password, for example, takes 62 trillion times longer to crack than a 6-character password. Another option is to use a password manager, which generates strong passwords for you. When using a password manager, you can use only one “master password” while keeping your various online passwords strong and secure.
Your Personal Network
If you’ve been to YouTube, you might have seen a number of content creators promoting VPNs (virtual private networks) like NordVPN and SurfShark. However, while this might seem like a simple sponsorship deal for Youtubers, VPNs are actually effective tools for safeguarding your network. By masking your IP address and allowing your data to pass through a secure connection, VPNs ensure that your online information is not susceptible to invasive activities that might compromise your privacy.
When choosing a VPN, go for a no-log VPN that also includes an IP address encryption feature. A no-log VPN ensures that your log-in data is not stored on any website that you might have visited, while IP address encryption keeps your IP address anonymous and safe. Make sure, too, that the VPN you use has a kill switch, which disconnects your device from any internet service if you lose your VPN connection.
These are just a few of the steps that you need to take when keeping your personal information secure each time you go online. While these may seem tedious at first glance, they also guarantee that your personal information is safe.