5 Ways to Secure Online Data in 2016

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As new tech devices were given as gifts this past holiday season the old models were discarded to junk drawers or sold for cash. Many without being wiped so personal data like phone books, photos and other files are still available. This isn’t the only privacy breach created by the holiday tech frenzy. New devices that are instantly powered on and put to use often do not have the same personalized settings as ones that have been in use for a few years or months. It can be hard to remember what apps have privacy adjustments that must be made.

Here are five ways you can secure your online data in 2016.

1. Stop digital hoarding and delete old stuff

You have your pick of many social media and cloud storage options that will happily store your files, pictures and videos all for free. The problem with this convenience, and relatively generous capacity, is you tend to stick stuff in these systems and never take it out. This can lead to a dangerous mixture of relatively benign content mixed with sensitive material (tax information, intimate pictures, etc.) that might just be leaked during a data breach or hack.

2. Speaking of free

Free is always nice but there’s a saying in the tech community that “if you are not paying for it… you are the product being sold”. Take some time to read free services’ terms of use and what rights you are granting them when you download or use the service. After a few dozen pages of reading you will be reaching for that delete button – assuming the delete button actually deletes the data.

3. Revisit your friends

It has taken you years to build up your friends and followers online, but do you know who they really are? It is a well-known fact that hackers create fake accounts to be able to access other, unsuspecting, user’s private information. Having large groups of first-degree contacts may make you look more impressive, but it can open you up for target phishing attacks or simply expose data you mean for your true friends to a larger audience. Start your friend “spring cleaning” early and ask, do you know the person, are they actively contributing to the online community, is there anything in their profile that doesn’t seem quite right? If you answer no to the first and second questions or yes to the last, disconnect from that “friend”.

4. Simplify communication

How many services do you use to communicate with people? Email, social media, texting, an alternative texting app, the list goes on. Our messaging workflow is so complex now it’s hard to keep track of who’s on which service and you’re constantly app jumping. Want to send a huge file to someone? Now you’re throwing a cloud storage service into the mix. It’s no wonder you hear about all of these hacks, there’s so much unprotected data floating around on these systems it’s almost impossible for people to keep track!

5. Cryptography is king

If you want to use cloud-based services to backup data, sync important files, or simply transmit a file to someone, make sure you encrypt it before the data ever leaves your device. This will prevent the data from falling into the wrong hands and from any eavesdropping from third parties (even the service itself). Most solutions out there now are very complex to use but consider using a compression program (like the free and open sourced 7-zip) and also AES-256 encrypt the files with a long password.

Credit XKCD.com

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Founder of SNDR.com

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