Updated: Sep 27, 2020
In today's age we tend to find ourselves bombarded with privacy and security notices, a subtle reminder that we are always vulnerable. Even now, I am using a VPN to ensure my data stays nice and secure, but recently a major VPN provider was breached. It goes to show that no information is truly safe, but the more we do to protect ourselves the better off we are in the long run. The goal is to make yourself a hard target so that you are last on anyone's list. But how far do you have to go to protect yourself, how much is enough?
When we download a new app on our phone or computer we have to give it permissions to access certain data. The more secure we are the safer we are, right, but is that always the case? Imagine you are on an empty stretch of road and you get into an accident. There is no discernible landmark around you and you are unfamiliar with the area, but luckily you have cell phone service. The dispatch asks your location but you don't know, so emergency services access your location via your phone and sends emergency services to your location. Do you feel violated? Have your rights to privacy been encroached upon? Most people would be grateful in this situation, but imagine if you didn't want someone to know where you were. Maybe like a crazy ex... or you are planning a surprise visit. There are many reasons you would want to maintain your privacy, but there is a time and a place for everything, including sacrificing privacy or security.
There are phones and cameras everywhere. It almost seems like its impossible to maintain anonymity and privacy, so what little you can do to protect yourself should be done. But how do you protect yourself in this digital age? In a lot of ways you can't- and you probably don't think about running around like a Mission Impossible agent, changing clothes and accessories, and obscuring facial features, in order to maintain some anonymity. So the question then is: what do you need to protect? Your personal information is what you need to protect. Those security questions you get asked when you set up financial accounts, the information on your credit reports, that information is gold in the right hands and you must do everything you can to protect that information. So then, with phones and cameras and computers and all other forms of listening and surveillance devices, how does one maintain any privacy or security? I guess the real answer is you can't be fully protected. Even the biggest companies in the world and technology giants have been breached. That does not mean give up or don't try. You need to take an active role in protecting what you can.
You need to make strong passwords. It is a pain to create and manage passwords, but this is a must. The best passwords avoid dictionary attacks by being a random assortment of numbers, letters, and symbols. These are the best passwords, but almost impossible to remember. I would suggest using a third-party app to generate passwords for you, apps like LastPass are exceptional for creating these passwords, but again if they are ever breached your information may become vulnerable.
My favorite way of creating a password is by using a phrase that has a specific meaning to me. I use the first and last letters of the phrase to create a password and use numbers related to the phrase and convert some to symbols. This ensures a seemingly random assortment of numbers, letters, and symbols, but is really easy to remember.
Why protect your personal information?
It's the digital age; if someone knows the right information about you, they become you. They can open accounts, close accounts, change your history, ruin your life. Imagine one day you try to buy a car and find out you're dead! That's happened before because of identity theft. Or one day, you go to buy a house and find out that someone has opened accounts in your name and maxed out credit cards. The creditors are going to come after you for the money and it's up to you to prove that it was not your purchases. Good luck, its a bad situation and can feel horrible. It's a violation unlike another. You have been stolen, your name, identity, your history. All used without your knowledge or consent.
There are ways to protect yourself, like I said earlier I am using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to mask my information. Basically, a VPN takes a whole bunch of data, throws it all into a big network blender bouncing that information all over the place. No one knows who's data is who's, or where the origin or destination is. It's probably the easiest way to protect your digital data transfers. Any computer that you do banking, stocks, school, access government sites on, you would want to have a VPN installed.
So, to balance anything, you have to actively manage both your privacy and your security. You are going to be vulnerable, but the goal is to minimize your vulnerabilities and maximize your protections. There are some other ways to protect yourself, like installing a Firewall or using MAC Id's to lock-down your network, but they are a bit more time-consuming and take a bit more technical know-how. Not to say it can't be done, though, because it can! Being positive is step one.