Social media, online banking, and shopping comprise the majority of your online activities, but that means that much of your data is online for all to see, even though it’s supposed to be private. Unfortunately, there have been some privacy breaches with credit card companies and banking sites in recent years. Does this mean that your personal data is really private?
Your personal data is not private, as most are in digital files on the internet, which are vulnerable to unauthorized access from hackers. Most people unwittingly volunteer their data, which can be accessed and monetized by the companies and services they use.
The rest of this article will explore critical questions related to this topic, including whether or not data is private and some steps you can take to secure your data. Let’s jump right in.
How Secure Is Your Data?
Your data could be more secure no matter how strict the Internet security protocols or how much money is spent on securing their sites.
When users provide their personal information online, there’s a level of trust that the company is taking significant efforts to ensure their data, such as when buying anything online or setting up an online baking account.
Naturally, you will need to provide critical personal information, including but not limited to your banking information and social security numbers. It is challenging to know whether these companies have taken significant steps to enhance cyber security.
In most cases, it’s only after these companies are hacked that these vulnerabilities become glaring. Take the 2020 CAM4 data breach, where over 10 billion records were exposed, as an example. Who saw that coming?
The Internet Was Not Built For Security
While the internet as we know it today has existed since the late 1990s, it’s arguable that most people don’t appreciate or understand the risks associated with this technology. Accordingly, most people are not at all concerned about volunteering so much of their information on websites.
With most services from banking, shopping, education, and even government resources moving to the internet, most of us can’t live without them. The internet was designed to connect multiple networks and increase communication between companies and services.
In the beginning, internet creators put little to no focus on securing this disruptive technology centrally. The internet’s underlying protocols are voluntary, and the world governments don’t want the internet secure.
“The Internet, a loosely-organized international collaboration of autonomous, interconnected networks, supports host-to-host communication through voluntary adherence to open protocols and procedures defined by Internet Standards.”Internet Engineering Tasdk Force-RFC 2026
World governments, including the U.S., want to bypass people’s privacy whenever possible.
During the early days of the internet, this technology was used by researchers and academics. However, the internet didn’t stay this way, and with several apps, websites, and social media sites, the number of people who use the internet has grown exponentially.
However, security has yet to take a similar trajectory. Several websites provide various services on the guide of anonymity and privacy, but as history has shown, these websites are prone to privacy breaches.
In 2021, technology research company Comparitech had 5 billion user records leaked online. This example of many incidents that have cracked the armor of perceived data security, especially on the internet.
As aptly summarized by government technology, “there’s no such thing as complete privacy in the digital age.”
Mobile Devices Have Vulnerabilities
Your mobile phone contains much of your private information. Mobile companies send patches with each software update to eliminate bugs and specific vulnerabilities, but not everyone keeps up with these updates.
The same applies to your laptop, tablet, or iPad. If you do not keep your devices updated and patches current, your personal information is susceptible to hacking, especially with cyber-terrorists devoting their time to finding and exposing vulnerable systems.
Cyber Security Threats
The growth of cyber security threats, such as phishing and other malware, has become an enormous problem in recent years.
One of the common forms of these attacks involves phishing emails. People are lured into providing their personal information, such as passwords, through phishing emails. Hackers can then access your information and cause significant damage, including wiping out your savings if you’re not careful.
- Birth dates
- Email addresses
- Phone numbers
Another cybersecurity threat is dating scams. People get on dating sites to lure in unsuspecting lonely people, only to get their banking and other identity information. So you need to be careful about who you’re talking with and recognize the red flags.
App or Service Privacy Policies and User Agreements
When installing most applications or signing up for a service, users are often provided with overly-lengthy user agreements. Naturally, very few people read these agreements, but some of the wording in these user agreements undermines private data security.
For instance, some services allow the application to read through your messages or photos. Other services will enable them to use or even sell your personal information to other companies to support targeted marketing campaigns.
An example of this is when Google was sued in 2010 for scanning their user’s emails for advertising goals.
Free services break even by monetizing user data in such cases. Therefore, although data security measures to prevent breaches enhance consumer trust in an organization, most people unwittingly allow companies to sell their personal information by not reading the fine print.
While consumers trust governments and companies with their data, these entities rarely prioritize the consumers’ needs ahead of their own.
Measures To Protect Private Data
If these issues scare you into not wanting to use the internet, don’t worry. There are things you can do to protect your private data while still enjoying the benefits of the internet.
Keep Your Accounts Secure
Consider changing your passwords every two weeks to keep your accounts secure, or you can secure your online funds with a two-step verification. After inputting your passwords, the site will send a temporal code to your phone that you have to input to log in. This step will secure your accounts, and you can quickly know when someone is trying to access your account.
Use Secure Browsing Tactics
Because devices like computers and mobile phones hold so much of your private data, it’s essential to keep this data safe from unauthorized access. To secure your data, you’ll want to install browser apps that block ads and insecure websites.
Avoid using public Wi-Fi to access sensitive sites that contain your personal information. Public hotspots are notorious for man-in-the-middle attacks, where hackers can intercept your personal information.
Update Your Device Software
Phone and computer operating software providers release regular updates which feature new security features and specific improvements. Allow your phone and computer to run their updates when prompted, as this will apply the security features and keep your data secure from hackers.
Install an Antivirus Program
A good antivirus program is essential for preventing malware on your computer, which is known to mine for important information on your device. You’ll also want only to install apps from trusted websites, as some apps can introduce harmful malware to your devices.
Lock Your Phone and Computer When Not In Use
Mobile devices and laptops contain much sensitive and personal information and are prone to theft or loss. Therefore, it’s essential to plan ahead so that your personal data does not fall into the wrong hands in case of theft or loss.
That means you’ll want to lock your phone in case of theft or loss immediately and set a strong passcode to prevent unauthorized access. For your laptop, encrypt your laptop’s hard drive so that the data is essentially unusable without the key or password.
You Can’t Secure Your Data 100%
Even with these measures, your data is still not private because much of it is contained by the websites you use. Achieving greater data privacy would require a more rigorous approach, including deleting your social media accounts, shopping accounts, or web service accounts.
However, trying to pull yourself from the internet may be challenging, especially given these service’s convenience.
The internet has provided access to a wealth of information. However, the internet has also resulted in much personal data going to the web.
Your personal information is at risk if you use the internet to access any web-based assistance. Your personal information is not only accessible and can be monetized by the companies that offer the services of selling personal data, but hackers can also access it.
Thus, your data is rarely ever truly private.