How to Protect Your Privacy in our Public World

protect1Last month I began explaining the ever-present issue of online privacy when navigating the Internet. I’m not sure whether I should call it a coincidence or just really bad luck…but just yesterday, I was put in a very sticky situation where my privacy and personal information was put at risk. It began when I was in the midst of navigating through different sites using my iPad, then all of a sudden a pop-up I had never seen before emerged and informed me that ‘adware or spyware’ may be present on my device. I wasn’t really convinced by this message and planned to ignore it. Normally, clicking on the exit button (x) would make it vanish; however that was not the case this time. The message kept popping up over and over again and prompting me to call a 1-800 number, displayed as an apple customer service number. Basically, I was not able to remove the pop-up until I called the number because this was blocking my access to navigate through Safari.

This was increasingly frustrating. Looking back, I should have Googled the 1-800 number, but I was so eager to fix the problem that I called. To my no-so-surprise, the woman who picked up sounded very distant, there was tons of noise in the background (not typical for an apple customer service call) and she immediately asked for my birthday and told me the price to avoid any adware or spyware from infiltrating my device would be 50$ or 100$ for all my devices – credit card only. It didn’t take long for a light to go off in my head and obviously, I did not give her any information – I simply hung up. However, I’m sure this fraudulent company has made money elsewhere and has scammed people on numerous occasions. I later googled the number and found a discussion board where an entire group of people had a similar experience. Afterwards, I called apple and informed them of the situation, they told me that this is a common scheme and explained how to remove the pop-up. They also informed me that adware and spyware cannot be found on iphones or ipads and that the software isn’t advanced enough to even allow this type of software to be placed on them – they aren’t built to support them. All in all, what this showed me was that 1) there will always be someone out there trying to get your information or make a buck off your frustrations and 2) trust, nowadays is something customers or Internet users must reassess and not take lightly, big time.

There are a multitude of ways to protect your identity, personal information and financial information online, but I will share with some key information that can assist you in the process.

1)    You should also be aware of which Wi-Fi network you are connected to. Checking your banking app while connected to a public WI-Fi network (such as at a café or hotel) is not a good idea – it is public; therefore, there is no telling how secure your information really is at that moment in time. An important step to remember to take when on a public Wi-Fi network is to turn off ‘sharing’ along with your ‘network discovery’ – this will ensure you are less likely to be a target to potential hackers. Additionally, if using a computer it is important to turn on your firewall as soon as possible. Try to avoid checking personal information on any apps that may provide personal information regarding passwords or financial information during this time.

2)    Unless you are lost or using your GPS while driving, it would be a good idea to disable all GPS/Locator Apps and their settings. Did you know that simply by looking into someone’s iPhone it is possible to see their most poplar visited locations and their most common routes, along with their address, of course – to ensure that this information is kept private ensure that you keep track of your locators. Notice how many apps ask for permission to use your geographic location, never allow them access to this unless necessary and once used, disallow this in your settings.

3)    Be extremely careful what and with who you are sharing information with on social media or social networking sites. These sites are used by advertisers, employers, employees, hackers, etc. It is important to maintain a good balanced of how much personal information you share because even though your settings may be set to private, there is no telling what can fall into the hands of someone the information wasn’t intended for. Be cautious how much you put out there.

4)    Passwords: keep them long, complicated and full of numbers and symbols if you can. It is also important to change your passwords every three months and keep them written down somewhere safe in your home. Try to avoid using any names, birthdays or obvious words as passwords.

5)    Be cautious of which web sites you visit, double check what you are downloading and finally, carefully read what pop-ups say and closely analyze what your computer asks you to authorize. Make sure that the online shopping sites you visit are secure and that you use PayPal or a secure Visa or MasterCard online service when possible, as opposed to typing out your exact credit card information online.

These are only a few of the steps that will keep you safe when surfing the net. If you follow each point, you will be that must more protected. You just need to remember that this Internet world we live in is an remarkable place, but it can also be a place of cybercrime. The Internet offers a myriad of diverse ways to create, communicate and collaborate with one another and explore areas that have yet to be perceived. However, along with all of it’s glory and novelty, with it has also generated a play ground for hackers to thrive on unsuspecting users. My final advice to you is, keep your eyes open and read for dangers are just around the corner… or the next tab you open.

“If people want to invade your privacy, they want to invade your privacy. I find it chilling, and I find it awful, and it makes me really nervous. It hasn’t happened to me much, but when you have a taste of it, it’s bitter.”

-Ruth Negga




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