Stan's Chrome-Plated Tech Tips

Friday, July 19, 2013


Online Privacy - Simple Steps Everyone Should Take

In light of the whole NSA scandal all over the news lately, we're getting a lot of questions about what can be done to maintain some semblance of online privacy.  That's a question that really has no easy answer.  Unless you're some sort of hermit that never goes online, is not on any kind of social media, or doesn't have an email address or cell phone, there are any number of ways you can be tracked.  Sorry, game over, big brother wins.

The best you can do is maintain some best practices that'll at least keep those looking to do you harm out, and that's what I'll outline here.  If you're up to no good, this isn't a Hacking 101 course, but there are no shortage of those elsewhere online.  If you're trying to keep honest people honest, and cybercriminals looking for low hanging fruit at bay, follow these simple steps and you can at least rest assured that when you do get hacked, it wasn't because of something stupid you did.

Good online privacy, for the average person, starts and ends with your passwords.  Yes, I said passwords, plural.  For those of you with one password for everything, you've got to know better.  Here's why:  if you've got one password for everything, associated with one email address for which you also use the password, all an identity thief has to do is gain access to that one password and they've got the keys to your entire kingdom.  You're especially vulnerable if you've only got one password for the big 4: GMail, PayPal, Amazon, and Ebay.  If you're using the same email address and password for all those, you should just save some time, walk up to the first shady looking individual you find, and hand over your keys and wallet.

So what should you do?  First, start with unique passwords for your email, online shopping, cloud storage and other online accounts like social media and online boards you need to register for.  Many less well known sites have weak security and your passwords possibly stored in clear text.  Translation: they get hacked, you get hacked!  Solution:  Use a SPAM email account and different password than one of your old standbys for them.  As for passwords, make them impossible for a random dictionary brute-force attack to guess.  NO SIMPLE DICTIONARY WORDS.  That make sense?  Go for a over 8 characters with some complexity such as at least one non-alphanumeric character, one number, one upper and one lowercase character.

So to summarize:
  1. Use a separate email for your online accounts
  2. Make your online account passwords unique and complex.
That's going to resolve nearly 99.9% of your online privacy concerns.  So unless you're up to shenanigans, this should keep you fairly well protected.  Oh yeah, and anything but Internet Explorer.  Just take my word for it on that one.

As Always,

I'm not a Geek.  I'm your friend.  And I'm here to help.

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