In 2013 we are always heading closer and closer to acknowledging that the internet needs to be regulated and security needs to be tightened buy the authorities. Largely it is still down to us, the consumer, to make sure we and our children are safe online.
You may think you’re computer is locked down and no one will gain access to your details, you’re right to a point. But knowledge is power. ISP’s (Internet service providers) have access to your details and can pass on certain information to third parties. There are also some extremely clever people out there that can gain access to almost anything they want regardless of home security measures.
The easiest way for your details to be accessed, taken and/or used is human error, by you. Easily guessed passwords, kids and pet names used across multiple networks, email addresses, social media, how many people use the same password over and over.
Use the parental settings on your android, i-device or computer. It’s there for a reason. Also use Google to switch off 18+ searches.
Here are some other tips:
1. Use a password manager
A password manager makes it easy to have a unique password for every site and ensures that if one service is hacked, other services will not be vulnerable. Some are free, many are low cost, and they are available for all platforms, including mobile.
2. Disable GPS and Wi-Fi on your mobile device until you need them
GPS: Your mobile provider is able to identify your approximate location using cell towers. If you have a smart device with GPS enabled, much more precise location information is available to a whole range of entities, including your platform provider and app developers.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi broadcasts detailed information about your device, the apps on it, your location, and Internet usage. Disabling Wi-Fi except when you are using it will prevent promiscuous broadcast of personal information. Power management apps will help you avoid having to remember by turning Wi-Fi off whenever the screen is dark, which will also maximise your battery life.
3. Read the access privileges for apps carefully, and make good choices
In the digital world if a service is free then you are the product. Many free services and apps collect detailed information about you that allows them to sell highly-target advertising. Next time you download a “free” app, check the information it is asking to access, and decide if this app really deserves those privileges.
Don’t let your kids download free apps. It is nice to allow the little one to have some freedom to choose what they want to download, but some free apps have the ability to ask you to download paid add-ons. Don’t tell the kids your password, a 50p add-on, on a free app can soon mount up.
4. Guard your date of birth and telephone number
Never display your full date of birth. It is a key piece of information that many providers use for verification. The same goes for telephone numbers, especially if you lose your telephone and are trying to re-create your contact list.
A major company will never spontaneously ask you for these details via an email. Do not fall for it.
5. Make yourself more difficult to find on social media
Consider using a pseudonym on social media sites. You can also use unique email addresses for each website you join. Most online email providers allow you to do this by appending extra letters (eg “fb+”) to your existing email address. This will make it difficult for strangers to search for you on social media sites and if you start receiving spam at that address, you’ll know exactly where the spammers found your address.
6. Keep your work and personal presences separate
If you have a work email account, keep it for work only. Your employer has the right to access your work email account, so you really should keep your private emails separate. This will also save you the significant trouble involved in telling all your contacts and updating all your logins if/when you change employers.
You might also consider creating multiple social media identities: work, very private, and “publicly” personal, with different names and different contact lists as much as possible.
7. Encrypt your connections
Encryption is the process of encoding information so that it is only intelligible to those given access to read it. Many online services, such as Facebook, Twitter and Gmail, now offer encrypted connections. Ensure that your browser uses an encrypted connection wherever it’s supported by installing the “HTTPS Everywhere” plug-in. Email is an inherently insecure communications medium, but there are options available for encryption, such as Pretty Good Privacy. Unfortunately, your email messages will only be encrypted if the people you are communicating with also use a compatible encryption service, so this limits its usefulness.
8. Collective action
While these measures can provide you with some individual protections, the fact remains that the most powerful action is collaborative.
Globally, we should demand that all countries focus efforts on implementing the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. These are 13 principles that set out for the first time an evaluative framework for assessing surveillance practices in the context of international human rights obligations.
In Australia, citizens should also be demanding a much more fundamental and long-term solution: a bill of digital rights. Australians deserve a set of principles that underpin decisions made about legislation that regulates online freedom, access, fair use, and privacy.
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