In recognition of Data Privacy Day tomorrow, Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Minister Amrik Virk encourages British Columbians to protect their privacy online by “clicking carefully” and ensuring that any applications or “apps” are not accessing any unnecessary personal data.
The number of identity theft and fraud reported has grown 50% since 2010 in B.C. with over 2,500 incidents reported to police in 2013. It’s more important than ever to protect your information.
Here are nine simple tips for protecting personal privacy online:
* Check your apps – Smartphone apps can potentially access your contacts, location, email and other information on your device. Only download apps from a trusted source and ensure you know what you are giving the app permission to do when you install it.
* Think before you click – Be careful when clicking on unfamiliar links embedded in websites or text, especially when they come from unknown companies. Hackers can create templates that look like a bank or other official websites to make it easier for them to access your computer and online accounts.
* Think twice about email attachments, even from people you know – Attachments may contain software that could potentially harm your computer’s performance, steal your personal information and send viruses to other people.
* Be cautious about revealing information on social networks – It’s easy to end up with personal information in your social media profiles. Remember to regularly review and update your privacy settings. For example, including email addresses and phone numbers can sometimes be enough for hackers to figure out your password.
* Do not respond to emails requesting personal information- Legitimate individuals and companies will not ask you to provide or verify sensitive information through a non-secure means such as email. If you have reason to believe that your financial institution needs personal information from you, phone the company using the number in your records, not the one the email may provide.
* Make strong passwords – When creating new passwords, use a mix of upper and lowercase letters and numbers. Make sure you change your most- important passwords, like banking, every six months.
* Secure your wireless connection – Make sure to protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi, be cautious about what information you access. It’s easy for hackers to use programs to snoop and observe open Wi-Fi data.
* Upgrade your security – Personal firewalls and security software with anti-virus, anti-spam, and spyware detection features are a must-have for those who engage in online financial transactions. Make sure the computer you are using has the latest security patches. Secure websites start with “https” instead of “http” and have a key or closed padlock in the status bar that appears in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
* Protect your phone with a password – Smartphones can hold as much or even more personal information than your laptop or desktop computer. Add a password to your smartphones or mobile devices for protection.
British Columbia’s proclamation is part of an international campaign to help educate and illustrate the importance of managing the growing amount of personal information that is being posted to the Internet.