Another summer, another season of massive data leaks. Facebook had an early lead when they revealed in late March that 600 million people’s data had been breached by the site. In April, they added another 540 million to that, revealing a second data leak. Just this summer, known data breaches have included Capital One, Poshmark, Labcorp, Quest Diagnostics, LA Department of Health and Quickbit. That’s just a sampling, but it means billions of people across the world have been exposed to identity theft this year. Equifax, who this summer paid a settlement of US$ 22 million for a 2015 data breach, reports that 31% of people who have their personally identifying information exposed in a data breach will experience identity theft.
So, what can you do? To function in a modern society, you are forced to hand over your data to numerous organizations who many times take frivolous care with that information. During this summer of data breaches, learn how to protect yourself with some online sunscreen.
Start by educating yourself on how your data is being harvested and used to not just steal your identity, but also manipulate your perception of the world. Watch “The Great Hack” on Netflix if you can. The documentary does an excellent job of explaining how data is being used as a psychological weapon.
Now that you have a greater picture of what is happening with your data, put in standard protections such as anti-virus software and a Virtual Private Network (VPN). But don’t choose any of the free services, as they’re also harvesting and selling your data. Use a VPN like Express VPN, which is a paid subscription. Use encrypted search engines like DuckDuckGo or Qwant. Get a Cryptomining blocker extension for your search engine, and you may consider an adblocker that stops sites from tracking you even after you leave their page. However, be warned that adblockers will impact the function of your online experience.
Of course, you must change your passwords often. Get a password manager to automatically generate new passwords for you. Install software updates automatically as they often patch security flaws.
Finally, do what you can to limit the number of sites who receive your personal information. That means limiting the number of apps on your phone even, as most apps track what you do on your phone, including your location, searches, contacts and even your biometric data.
Bottom line, the best way to take back control of your data is to stop financing the companies who have made trillions off the buying and selling of your personal information. Seriously consider leaving social media platforms like Facebook and joining private social platforms like Idka where you can be social and stay private. Just as you wouldn’t leave your skin constantly exposed to the harshness of the summer sun, learn to protect yourself online from the harshness of data exposure.