For months now, news agencies across the globe have hung on almost every single word spoken by Edward Snowden about the NSA scandals that threaten our basic privacy.  The threat of our online privacy is a real concern that should be felt by every citizen, but the largest threats don’t necessarily come from our government.  The daily browsing habits of the average American is just as concerning and it’s even more dangerous in the world of business.  Here are a few habits that everyone needs to break in order to protect their online privacy-

Public Access Poses Risks

wifi

 Every day, millions of Americans hop on Wi-Fi networks at work and on the go, completely oblivious to the inherent dangers of this type of web surfing.  The chances of having your login credentials stolen are exponentially higher on public domains, yet that rarely stops consumers from typing in passwords, security codes, and even social security numbers.  Criminals prey on popular Wi-Fi networks and oftentimes, they’re the ones handing out the free Internet in congested locations to begin with.  It’s more than a fair tradeoff for them.

There is one steadfast rule regarding online privacy that everyone should always adhere to; if you don’t personally own the Internet connection, then it should never be used to access financial, billing, or any other type of personal information.  This includes servers at work, “secure” channels in airports and hotels, and virtually every other access point that you do not have complete control over.

 

Cloud Storage is Dangerous

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image20795585

Big businesses have been pushing cloud storage for a number of years now because the databases that hold your information are completely secure with military grade encryptions and firewalls.  Those protections don’t necessarily matter though and if you read the last paragraph, you’ll understand exactly why.  Hackers do not need to forcibly gain access to Google Drive or Dropbox in order to steal info; they simply need to get your login information through one of many slight-of-hand tricks.  From hacking your browsers to spoof capture sites, the opportunities are near endless.

 

While online storage is still a massive benefit for businesses and individuals alike, it is not a place to store private information that would be dangerous in the wrong hands.  Always have a unique password for these accounts and never access them from unsecure devices.

 

Multiple Online Identities are Vital

finger print

Americans are also far too caught up in the idea that one email address, user name, and password are all that is needed to remain secure online.  Remember that online discount site you signed up for about five years ago to get that $5 off coupon?  Of course you don’t.  Here’s the problem; that website was built by an amateur that wouldn’t know Internet security from a hole in the wall, yet you essentially gave him your banking login information since you only use one identity.  Criminals know you’re lazy and they love you for it, because every day you’re making their job all too easy.

The easiest way to avoid this password dilemma is to create multiple identities and keep track of them with a cloud-based password manager that can be accessed from any of your devices.  Here’s a quick walkthrough-

  • Step 1-   Download a password manager like RoboForm or LastPass.
  • Step 2-   Set up two identity profiles; one with your real info and one 100% fake.
  • Step 2-   Register for a free email account at Gmail, Yahoo or Mail.com with the fake profile.
  • Step 3-   Set the new email account to automatically forward to your main address.
  • Step 4-   Use your main/real address only for core sites (bills, taxes, banking, etc.).
  • Step 5-   Use the 2nd email account for everything else.
  • Step 6-   When registering at new sites, use 100% random passwords.
  • Step 7-   Store all login info in the password manager; never type a password again.

 

If you register on a lot of gaming, coupon, review and/or promotional websites, a third or even a fourth bogus email account may be necessary.  Also, do not register at websites by using a social media profile either; the goal is to limit giving away your personal information as much as possible.