It is surprisingly easy to inadvertently give away your personal information online, especially when prompted to do so by an email, on social networking sites or on company websites requesting information which they do not necessarily need to do business with you.
In addition, certain organisations hold information about you which enables you to carry out transactions with them. These include government departments, financial institutions such as banks, building societies and insurance companies, healthcare providers, retailers, search engines … the list is virtually endless.
- Identity theft
- Defamation of character
- Unsolicited selling and marketing
- People using awareness of your activities and movements to act against you
- Employers using the information to exploit you
- Social networks using your personal data for purposes other than management of your account, such as selling it on to other organisations
- Social networks suffering a data breach, compromising your personal data
How your privacy can be compromised
- Unencrypted email and most website interactions can be monitored, including by your employer and your ISP.
- Your personal data being used by social networks either for their own purposes, or those of third parties.
- Via phishing – where an illicit email prompts you to click on a link to a bogus website which will collect your private or financial infomation.
- Via vishing (short for ‘voice phishing’), where fraudsters call you either on the phone or in person, to collect your private or financial information.
- Using unsecured WiFi networks – both in the home/office and when out and about.
- Using unencrypted links for sensitive communications (for example not using a VPN to connect to the office).
- Not using secure websites when banking or making online payments, including those for purchases.
- Not using strong passwords, not regularly changing passwords, not using passwords at all or revealing passwords to other people.
- Not using a secure email or webmail account.
- Using a work email account for personal email.
- Staying logged in to a website or email account when the computer/smartphone/tablet is going to be used by somebody else.
- Via spyware and viruses, including those that log your keystrokes to determine your online activity.
- Via physical keystroke loggers attached to the keyboard cable.
- Not storing personal or financial documents securely.
- Not shredding unwanted personal or financial documents.
- Being taken into people’s confidence too easily.
Maintaining your privacy
- Ensure you always have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software running.
- In a public or work environment, check your computer physically for any unusual devices that may be plugged in, especially on the keyboard cable.
- Use secure websites when shopping or banking online.
- Log out of secure websites when you have finished your transaction, as closing the window may not automatically log you out of the site.
- Use strong passwords, change your passwords regularly and never reveal them to other people.
- Avoid using a work email address for personal use. Instead, have a separate, private email address for private business.
- Make sure your home/office WiFi network is secured.
- Store personal and financial documents securely.
- Shred unwanted personal or financial documents.
- Be careful to whom you disclose personal information.
- Read social media platforms’ terms & conditions to find out how they can use your data. Remember, this will probably be buried in the ‘small print’.
- Where possible, avoid using your real name online.
- Be cautious about who is trying to befriend you online including via email and social networks/dating sites.
- Be wary of disclosing personal information on a work or personal web site.
- Use a disposable, anonymous webmail account for websites that demand an email address to register.
- Set clear guidelines for children about when and how they can reveal information.