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Internet Security Basics – Personal Data Sharing

December 04, 2012

Internet Security Basics – Personal Data Sharing

Personal data protection is one of the most hottest topics on the Internet these days. There are many companies specialized in personal data protection and the popularity of their products and services continues to grow. Understanding how personal data is used on the Web and how to avoid becoming a target of abuse is important for every Internet user to know.

Basic guidelines can be followed to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim of personal data abuse. Below are some practical ways to handle your private material on the Internet. These are steps you can take to help lessen exposure of your personal data which can have implications on your personal and professional life.

What is “Personal Data” and Why Do You Need to Protect It?

Everyone has their own take on what is considered to be “personal information”. Each person may want to protect different types of information that he or she finds particularly sensitive. However, there is some general personal data that should be protected or, at the very least, given a second thought before making them public.

Your Personal Data

Examples of personal data that could be abused or complicate your daily life if leaked include:

  • Your name, address, date of birth, phone number, sex, sexual orientation, age, driver’s license, social security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, other identifiable numbers or materials, etc.
  • Occupation, weight, height, hobbies, favorite music, etc.
  • Email addresses, passwords, visited pages, social network profiles, nicknames, Internet banking logins, etc.
  • Photographs, videos, files, etc.

Personal Data Accessible to Your Children

Children may not be able to accurately evaluate the potential repercussions from information they share with others. Parents should be aware of the online habits of their children and need to educate their children about the importance of information, including how and what is allowed to be shared on social networks, the playground, in school, etc. Children need to know the rules on what type of photos they can share and which ones are not suitable for public consumption.

A case in point includes children who share photographs online that show identifying information of their house. They then may disclose leaving with their parents on a Caribbean vacation. Because information on social networks is spread fast and uncontrolled, it could easily get into the wrong hands and a family could return home to a burglarized house.

Parents should instruct their children to never give out their real names, addresses or phone numbers, without permission, when using the Internet. All parents need to speak with their children about sharing personal information, how it can affect their protection and possibly impact them and the whole family. This is a serious topic because the Internet is becoming more and more dangerous.

Personal Data in an Employer – Employee Relationship

Many companies instruct their employees about working with company information and how to act on social networks in regards to their employment and occupation. This relationship is usually mirrored by the employer who may be required to keep personal information about its employees safe by law.  

It’s prudent for individuals and companies alike to always think first before providing any information about the company or its employees.

4 Ways Information is Leaked on the Internet

Online threats and Internet dangers are real. The worldwide network is an ideal place for scammers, phishing threats and other data abuse. Here are four common ways information is leaked from the Internet:

  1. Social Networks
    A social network is one of the most dangerous places for personal data to be accessed. If account protection measures are not set correctly, personal information may become available to anyone on the network. Specialized software is available to help protect your social network account and usually comes with security recommendations for using the social network. The article "How Do I Make My Facebook® Profile More Secure" helps explain how to keep data visible to only certain people.
  2. Registration and Shopping on Unfamiliar Sites
    Always be extremely careful when filling in online forms, registrations and credit card information. Before registering on any website, check the credibility of the site and read up the site’s privacy policy on how your information will be used. Also, consider these points:

    - Register with a primary email address and maintain a password just for these types of important logins. This is recommended for well-known sites and services reported to be safe, such as PayPal®, eBay®, etc.

    - Register with an alternative email address and use a different password from the one used for your important logins. This is recommended for sites such as forums, discussions, questionable shops, etc.

    - Never register information on suspicious sites, such as those originating from ads offering deals that seem too good to be true.

    Never in question, use a search engine like Google®, Yahoo!®, Bing®, etc. to check general discussions from other users about the site or server. If you ever have any doubts, do not register your information on the site and never provide credit card information.
  3. Instant Messengers
    Instant messengers can be quite dangerous, with multi-protocol instant messengers as some of the most vulnerable to exploitation. Always be wary of messages containing hyperlinks, especially from people who are not in your contact list, and never click on these types of links.
  4. Search Engines and Tracking Cookies

    Tracking cookies are files downloaded by websites when someone visits their page. A tracking cookie may be downloaded and stored in a visitor’s computer. The tracking cookie monitors your online activities and this information could potentially be sold to third-party companies, which then offer related ads in the originating visitor’s search results. Tracking cookies may not be dangerous but it is important for Internet users to realize that their online activity may be monitored. To prevent this from happening, download and install antispyware software that detects and removes tracking cookies, such as Spyware Terminator 2012.

Preventing Personal Data Leaks

Now that you understand the importance of your personal data and the actions you can take to protect your private information, also keep in mind the following points:

  • Always think before you act! When you come across a form to fill or a place asking for you to upload data, ask yourself, “Do they need my real data?”
  • Fill in only required information. Online registrations usually request required fields to be filled in. Do not fill in every box if it isn’t necessary. The less information you put out on the Internet, the better.
  • Require a guarantee that your personal data will be protected. Before you fill in the form, look for a sentence on the website, stating your data will not be used for anything other than the contract you are entering into, such as purchasing an item or signing up for a newsletter. Credible companies will always include this type of information on their site which is usually explained in the site’s privacy policy.
  • Use security applications. Install antivirus and antispyware software on your computer that contains real-time protection so you know it is kept updated. It is worth it! To learn what to look for in computer protection, read the article that focuses on choosing the best antivirus.

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