How your online activity compromises your privacy and data

Most Australians are used to living in a digital world now, sharing every aspect of our lives via social media. But you might be surprised to find out just how easily someone can gain access to your social media accounts. All you need to do is use the same public network as a hacker and, within seconds, all your personal information can be compromised.

With that information, it’s simple for a hacker to assume your identity and make your life very difficult.

Depending on the cybercriminal’s intentions, they can empty your bank accounts, hold your data for ransom, sabotage your reputation, or blackmail you for further details. And, once your identity and credibility have been tarnished, it can be time consuming and expensive to clear your name.

I have nothing to hide, so why should I be concerned?

It’s a common statement, often used to expediently accept substandard security or privacy measures. However, even those of us with a squeaky clean lifestyle have things we don’t necessarily want our employers, colleagues, friends, or family members to know.

Time to stop the bad habits

Lots of people leave their passwords written down near their computers, or use the same password across multiple sites in the mistaken belief that it can’t be of use to anyone. In fact, just getting hold of someone’s email address and password can open a whole world of opportunity to a hacker.

Another common hunting ground for cybercriminals is the online marketplace. Australians each spend an average of US$4,500 online every year, trusting internet retailers with their credit card details, home addresses, and purchasing preferences. We have become so used to transacting online that we don’t even realise just how much information we are disclosing to the Internet at large.

Therefore, it’s important to understand the implications of your online behaviour and take steps to maintain your privacy. Here are four easy steps you can take to protect yourself:

  1. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect yourself against others snooping on you, such as hackers, service providers, and even the government.
  2. Make your social media accounts as private as possible. All social media platforms come with security preferences you can personalise; use them to your advantage.
  3. Make sure all your system’s software is up to date. This includes your security software/tools.
  4. Avoid using public Wi-Fi, particularly if you are online banking or shopping and have to type in your credit card details. Often, tethering to your mobile phone connection is a better option in these cases.